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Sweet Baby Jesus!

by Daniela Lee on January 04, 2023

First of all, Happy New Year! Aren't we all glad the holidays are over?! *Sheesh* If you are a Latino, you know it's not over just yet. That's right, don't forget about the Rosca de Reyes!

If you don't know what that is, keep on reading.

The Rosca de Reyes is a "crown" of yeast and flour decorated with crispy diamonds of sugary powder and strips of candied fruit. Inside the loaf is a bite-sized plastic toy that represents baby Jesus.

In Latin culture, families and friends gather on January 6th to cut the Rosca de Reyes. Each person cuts a slice of the Rosca, and whoever gets the hidden plastic baby Jesus is expected to host a party on Candlemas or "Día de la Candelaria" on February 2nd. On that day, the host will either make or buy tamales for everyone according to Mexican tradition.

The Rosca is usually accompanied by hot drinks such as hot chocolate, coffee, atole, or champurrado. Atole (ah-toh-leh) is a Mexican beverage made from corn flour sweetened with vanilla, cinnamon, piloncillo, better known as whole cane sugar. Champurrado is the chocolate version of atole. They're both equally delicious and a must-try.

Now, as to the history behind the Rosca de Reyes. According to research, the origin of the Rosca is related to the Saturnalia during Roman times. Saturnalia is a feast where people celebrate the beginning of longer days after the Winter Solstice. To celebrate, a round cake with dates, figs, and honey was made and passed around for all to enjoy. By the 8th century, when the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by the Moors, they introduced confections such as almonds, refined sugar, candied fruits, and spices such as anise and cinnamon. By the 16th century, the Spaniards brought the tradition of the Rosca de Reyes to the New World, along with its stories of religious symbolism.

And, speaking of symbolism, the Rosca de Reyes comes from a famous story about a very famous couple who flees Egypt to protect their infant. Do you know who I'm talking about?

That's right, it is the story of Mary and Joseph and their escape from King Herod to save baby Jesus. The shape of the bread symbolizes King Herod's crown from whom they are trying to protect and hide baby Jesus. The dried fruits represent the crown jewels, and the small plastic figurine represents Jesus in hiding.

Symbolically, the person who finds the baby Jesus is his godparent. Therefore, he must throw a party when Jesus is taken to the temple to be blessed on February 2nd, also known as Dia de la Candelaria or Candlemas.

What does a Rosca de Reyes taste like? The traditional one is made with butter and orange zest. The top is decorated with candied fruits, ate, and sometimes maraschino cherries. Rosca's are supposed to be a bit sweet, but the candied fruits add the most sweetness. Many bakeries make their own version; some might even have some sort of filling.

If you haven't tried a Rosca de Reyes, I definitely recommend next February you get one and have your friends and family over to cut the Rosca and see who gets the baby Jesus!

Have you tried Rosca de Reyes before? Let me know what you think!


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