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Day of the Wise Kings

Day of the Wise Kings (January 6th)

Photography by DIARIO DE YUCATÁN

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Tradition tells that they came from the East, the exact number of those who visited the Child Jesus is not known, it is said that there are three because there were three gifts that were given to the child (gold, incense and myrrh) but other different traditions they have indicated that there were two, four, seven and even twelve. The magicians, although not Persian priests, had religious and philosophical knowledge. Apparently, these characters were astrologers, people dedicated to studying nature and it is precisely thanks to these studies that they learned of the birth of Jesus. Tradition describes the three wise men as the representatives of the three then-known continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Thus, they have also been related to the three ages of man’s life: youth, middle age and old age. Guided by the stars they went to Bethlehem in order to find the newborn Baby Jesus to adore him. They offered him gold (present conferred to the kings, represents the royalty of Jesus), incense (used in the worship of God, represents the divine nature of Jesus) and myrrh (an embalming compound for the dead, represents the passion and death of Christ)

Before the kings reached their destination, in the city of Jerusalem, the governor Herod “The Great” stopped them to ask them to come back with him and to tell them the exact place where the child was, because I also wanted to go worship him. Tradition tells that an angel appeared to the Magi warning them of the danger that Jesus would run if they obeyed Herod’s wish, so they did not return the same way.

The first time the name of the “Reyes Magos” as we know them arises, it is in the church of San Apolinar Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy. In this place there is a decorated image showing three characters dressed as Persians, offering various presents to the Virgin who is seated on a throne with a Child on her left knee. Above their heads you can read three names from right to left: Melchor (old white man with white beards, his gift to Jesus was gold), Gaspar (young dark-haired man and his gift was incense) and Baltasar (middle-aged and black, his gift to Jesus was myrrh)

In Mexico, the origin of this custom dates back to the Spanish missionaries who arrived in the territory during the sixteenth century and is part of the Catholic tradition, based on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, which narrates the arrival of three wise men from the East who received the message that the Savior would be born and that they should follow the path marked by a star, it guided them to a manger in Bethlehem where they found the newborn. In memory of these presents, the children of Mexico also receive their gifts each year, on the same date.

Tradition establishes that children put their letter on the night of January 5, it contains a list of the toys they love the most and deserve for their good behavior throughout the previous year. The letter is placed in his shoe, also leaving food and water for the kings and their animals. Other children prefer to send their letters tied to a balloon and still others visit them directly in shopping centers, squares or markets to make their requests. They anxiously wait for dawn to run to open their toys and go outside to play with their friends. Finally, the day ends with a delicious “Rosca de Reyes” (an oval-shaped bread with dried fruit) dinner, accompanied by a hot and sparkling chocolate.

But why do we usually eat the Rosca de Reyes on January 6? To celebrate the day that the Magi met Jesus, this date is known as “Epiphany”, a meeting that symbolizes this bread. For Christians, the oval shape of the thread represents the infinite circle of love for God; the crystallized dried fruits that adorn the bread, symbolize the jewels embedded in the crowns of the Magi and the hidden doll or “muñequito”, represents the Child Jesus. Thus, whoever finds the “doll” must take care of it until February 2, which is celebrated the Candlemas Day the date on which a snack consisting of tamales, bread, chocolate or coffee is organized.