HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Traditionally, rosca de reyes is a sweet bread served with raisins, colored stripes and a plastic baby baked inside.
In Mission, Valeria’s Bakery bakes the bread with cherries, membrillo, and guava and then adorn the Mexican pan dulce with almonds, colored glaze strips and chocolate. Other bakeries across the Rio Grande Valley make the bread in similar fashion, selling the rings of baked bread in boxes.
But why do we eat it every January — and what does it symbolize?
Rosca de reyes, or Kings Cake, is customly eaten on Jan. 6, or Dia de Reyes. The tradition of eating the bread 12 days after Christmas is based on beliefs in the Christian faith.
Inside every rosca de reyes is a little plastic baby, symbolizing the newborn messiah. The plastic figures are typically provided on the side and added manually hidden in the bread by the customer, if bought from a bakery.
It is tradition that whoever gets the baby in their slice has to cook tamales for everyone on Feb. 2, Candelaria Day. Of course, the tradition of making tamales is not strictly enforced—allowing people to instead bring tamales and other items for a celebration.
According to the Bible, the three wise men followed the star to Bethlehem and arrived with gifts for baby Jesus on Jan. 6.
In central Mexico, many children wait to open their gifts on Dia de Reyes rather than opening them on Christmas day, which is a custom in Western culture. The reason behind waiting until Jan. 6 is because that is when the three wise men delivered their gifts to baby Jesus.
The bread itself symbolizes the jewels and gifts that the kings brought for baby Jesus.