Esteban Rodriguez and his crew at Mi Tierra Bakery in Coachella are getting ready to sell over a thousand Roscas de Reyes this weekend. Roscas de Reyes, which is translated as “king’s wreath,” is a type of sweet bread that has a couple of hidden Baby Jesus figurines. This bread is only eaten on January 6th.
“The smell of this bread brings back so many memories,” Rodriguez said. “This is a traditional Mexican recipe, it’s fruity, it smells really good. It reminds me of my childhood, breaking the bread with my mother and my siblings.”
This special bread honors Dia De Reyes or Three Kings Day, which is a Catholic, Hispanic holiday that celebrates the day it is believed that the Three Wise Men visited Baby Jesus.
“It’s important to commemorate this celebration, and a lot of people are interested in this product during this holiday,” he said.
Bakers have been mixing a special sugar paste that decorates the bread and have been preparing pounds and pounds of dough. Sunday January 6, 2019 is their busiest day, so they will start baking these pieces of bread around 2 am.
“You can use the same ingredients, but each baker has a special touch,” Rodriguez said. “They have so much experience that they know when the dough is ready and when it acquires the perfect taste.”
Every element on this bread has a special meaning. It is covered with colorful dried fruit and a sugar paste, which symbolize jewels on a crown.
“According to the bible, King Herod ordered his guards to kill, so the knife represents the danger that Jesus, Mary and Joseph faced,” Rodriguez said. “However, this is a happy celebration that acknowledges God’s love.”
The tradition is that if you break the bread and you get a baby Jesus figurine, then, you have to make or buy tamales and give them away on February 2nd. They are shared with those you ate the bread with. February 2nd is Dia De La Candelaria also known as Candlemas or The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
“That’s why a lot of people either hide the figurine or they even swallow it,” he added.
Before Dia de Reyes, children leave a shoe near their door with a letter for the three kings and they wake up to find some presents on January 6th.