The following is a guest post from writer, Jamie Claros.
As a proud Latina born and raised in the United States, I have always made sure that both sides of my heritage—the Latin and the American—are celebrated in my everyday life. My Pandora stations are a mix of Top 40 stations and contemporary Latin music royals, Aventura and Marc Anthony, and you’re more likely to find me at a salsa club on the weekends than you are anywhere else. My Thanksgiving dinners are a mix of the traditional American turkey, stuffing, and gravy combo alongside trays of pastelón de platano and flan. And now, during the end of year holidays, I am even more thankful, because the celebration doesn’t end on January 1st, when the New Year arrives.
Instead, for my family, the holidays continue until January 6th, when we celebrate El Día de los Reyes, or Three Kings Day, which commemorates the Three Kings (also referred to as Wise Men or Magi) who followed the North Star for twelve days to Bethlehem to present baby Jesus with three symbolic gifts. While the holiday has its roots in Catholicism, it has never been particularly religious for my family. Instead, it has always been another day to celebrate and enjoy with my immediate family members, and a way to keep the festivities and joyful holiday spirit alive, even when the holiday season is winding down.
Whereas Christmas Eve and Day are usually spent at another family member’s home or in Miami with my extended family, Three King’s Day has always been the one holiday that was guaranteed to be spent in my own home. Among the hustle and bustle of the holidays, this is especially important to me, because it allows a peaceful time to reflect and relax. After all, there is nothing quite like stopping everything and spending a day with those you love most in the place you call home. For me, it is the perfect way to end the season as it brings it all back to basics and what’s most important: family. And, because it is not until January 6th, it has always been the perfect excuse to leave decorations up and keep my home as the Winter Wonderland it transforms into come December (because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love keeping holiday decorations up?). I have vivid memories of waking up in the morning to be surprised with more presents from los tres reyes, or the three kings, under the still standing Christmas tree and being overjoyed that I had what I considered a special holiday that not many others celebrated or even knew about.
Nowadays, Three Kings Day is further making its way into mainstream America and consumerism; Disneyland now has an annual Three Kings Day celebration, and retailers who are in touch with their Hispanic markets know that the holiday shopping season extends two weeks further than Christmas. So how can you bring a little bit of the Tres Reyes spirit to your home and extend your own holiday season? An easy way is to serve a traditional dish that can be modified to fit your own culture or preferences.
Rosca de Reyes is a sweet bread filled with candied fruit that is traditionally served on Three Kings Day. Traditionally, a hidden figurine of a tiny baby is baked into the bread to represent the Three King’s quest to find infant Jesus. In some Latin countries, it is customary that whoever finds the figurine must host a party in February, for another holiday. The figurine can easily be switched out for a tiny crown (or three!) and the prize can be altered to suit your own family’s traditions or customs. While you may still want the “winner” to host a party—after all, any reason for continuing the celebration is a good reason!—you can always be creative and offer a bottle of wine or any fun trinket to the winner, or a small toy or goodie bag if the winner is a child. For a Food Network recipe of Rosca de Reyes, click here.
Regardless of your heritage, being home for the holidays is all about the special memories you make with close family and friends, and the traditions you pass on to those around you. For me, this means mixing both aspects of my heritage to make a holiday season that is unique to me and my family. What do the holidays mean to you? Comment below with your favorite holiday traditions to incorporate at home.
Header image courtesy of Flickr user Garçon Howard