Christmas is over and all its excitement fast fading into memories, New Year celebrations have come and gone and we are now well into the first week of January. Things are returning to normal, back to routine, back to work, back to school… But, wait! In Mexico, schools don’t start back until next Monday and there’s still one last festivity before the holiday season really ends.
Día de Reyes is on January 6th and marks the end of the Christmas holidays in Mexico. This celebration, which you could translate as “Three Kings Day”, is all for the children. On the night of the 5th, the Reyes Magos, or Three Wise Men, visit every house while the children are asleep and leave them presents. Very much like Santa. Plenty of lucky children receive gifts from both!
A very important tradition on January 6th is the parting of the Rosca de Reyes, a ring-shaped bread topped with with dried fruits and containing a tiny (usually plastic) baby Jesus figure, or several, hidden inside the bread. According to the tradition, each person cuts their own slice and whoever gets the figure in their slice will be responsible for making the tamales for the Dia de la Candelaria on February 2nd.
The Rosca is usually accompanied by a drink of hot chocolate, perfect for a chilly January evening. The Dia de Reyes celebration and the Rosca itself are traditions that were brought to Mexico by the Spanish during the colonial period. However, hot chocolate belongs to an indigenous Mexican ancestry.
|Photo by ANDRIK LANGFIELD PETRIDES on Unsplash|
The hot chocolate we drink today is very different to the drink consumed in pre-Columbian times.
The Mayas were the first to cultivate cacao and prepare a bitter-tasting drink called Chocolha. It was made by toasting the cacao seeds and grinding them into a paste to which water was added. It was heated and mixed with cornflour or chilli and other spices and the resulting drink was consumed only by the royals and nobles, both for pleasure and for medicinal purposes.
It was a stimulant; the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés reportedly said that one drink of xocoatl could sustain a soldier on a whole day’s march. It was he who introduced this new substance to Europe where the Spanish court kept its preparation a closely guarded secret for many years.
|Photo by Michał Grosicki on Unsplash|
Nowadays in Mexico, the most typical drinking chocolate is sold in solid bar or tablet form, which is broken into pieces and stirred into a pan of simmering milk until melted. Some people also whisk the hot chocolate in the blender before serving to give it a frothier consistency.
It’s the perfect companion to a slice or two of Rosca, getting the year off to a very sweet start!
Happy Dia de Reyes!
|Photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash|
If you want to keep those winter colds and coughs at bay, don’t miss the next in my series of warming winter drinks – I’ll be writing about some teas and infusions used as natural remedies.
Did you catch the first post in the series? Here’s how to prepare Mexican fruit punch - Ponche Navideño.