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Ladies and Gentlemen, It Majesty La Rosca de Reyes...

By Mónica Belén Hernández Bennettz

Your restless mouth waits, It arrives, and before the gaze of all those present, it slowly opens.  It seems to crumble into a thousand pieces - its smells motivate you in a way that you cannot understand, its voluptuousness is evident, it melts, your eyes cannot stop looking at it and literally want to eat all of it, your senses scream its name.  After a long wait, a piece of it comes to you, breaks before you, and then, the taste buds are delivered in an ecstatic caloric frenzy; then  you give it a  bite, little by little, you devour it! Its very sweet taste makes you close your eyes and salivate constantly; it alters your breath wanting more and more.  You need something hot, yes, hot.  As if it were not enough, someone gives you a delicious burning cup of hot chocolate or atole; they mix in your mouth and, little by little, they braid on your tongue and go to another level ... your stomach.

That piece of bread has left you satisfied, suddenly you feel something hard and cold on your palate and oh surprise, it peeks through your lips and everyone begins to laugh. A voice tells you: You are  the lucky one who will pay for the tamales! And you, you are just trying in vain to swallow the little doll - it is too late, your friends and family have you in their sights.

This is the story that repeats itself every January 5 and 6 in Mexico. In every office, home, even school, the people nearby gather for the so-called rosca game. This is a sweet, round and hollow bread that is traditionally decorated with sugar crusts (for me the most delicious), fruit strips crystallized desert plants such as figs, dates and Mexican cactus called acitrón, which, due to being in danger of extinction, is today replaced by a citrus fruit sweet called ate(delicious!)

But what is really fun about the event is its protagonist: the little doll, a white plastic object in the shape of a child or baby that is hidden in the middle of the bread. Then discovered splitting the slice that corresponds to it, tradition says, whether he wants to or not, the lucky recipient is committed to pay for  tamales of all those present - even 1000. This takes place on February 2, the date on which the religious festival of La Candelaria Day is celebrated; Catholics commemorate the presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple. By the way, the tamales are a delicious pre-Hispanic food very popular in Mexico made with corn dough.  It is accompanied or filled with tomato, chicken or pork sauces, and there are also sweets. It is steamed and wrapped in corn husks; its name comes from the Nahuatl language and means carefully wrapped. We will talk about it later.

The rosca can be of all sizes - from small for a person 10cm in diameter - to the largest in the world. This happened  in the Mexican city of Tizimín, in the southern state of Yucatán, where Cancun, Mayan area is located. This was achieved on January 6, 2020, the new Guinness Record for the world's longest rosca de reyes at 3,009.65 meters long (1.87 miles),weighing more than three tons (6614 pounds) and containing 19,000 dolls! Imagine the feast on February 2, with tamales included, all accompanied by the traditional atole, a hot drink with a sweet flavor, also made with corn or a delicious chocolate.

During the early morning of January 6, Mexican children anxiously await the arrival of three legendary guests: Melchor, Gaspar or Caspar and Baltazar. According to the legend, they were the Kings of Persia, India and Arabia who were guided by the so-called Star of Bethlehem(conjunction of two planets Saturn and Jupiter seen recently on December 14,2020 after 800 years!) They offered their respects and brought myrrh, frankincense, and gold as presents to the child born in Bethlehem 2020 years ago. This tradition was brought from Spain during the colonial period(1521-1821) by the first Franciscan evangelizers.

And yes, in Mexico, children write a double letter and get a double gift: Santa Claus at Christmas and the wise men.  There are even cities where a monumental parade with floats is held. In the capital of the country, La Alameda (central park), it is a tradition to take a family photo with the three wise men. The rosca, the gifts ,and the doll are traditions that refuse to be diluted in time and somehow gathering around the donut is an excellent pretext to be together. Happy 2021!

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