El Día de Los Reyes

It's becoming X-mas and tensions are running high again. With all the gift buying, surprise making, money spending and planning there's hardly anyone unaffected. Even when you are as cool as a summer's breeze, the people around you have tempers like a hurricane. I, personally, like X-mas mostly because of the free time. I can't stand, however, that all the shops/ libraries/ any other places are closed and that I can't go out to do things very much. I guess this year we'll visit grandma and grandpa but what else are we going to do those days?

For those of us who have had enough of the pressure and tension of X-mas there's a little bright light. It's called the feast of El Día de Los Reyes. Let me explain to you about this feast....

In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, children receive X-mas gifts not from Santa, but from los reyes magos - the three wise men. The three wise men leave gifts in the night of January 5, to be discovered on El Día de Los Reyes, January 6. Known as the feast of the Epiphany, the holiday makes a useful addition to your calendar, whether you want to add more spiritual meaning to X-mas or just relieve some seasonal pressure.

Have a family "undecorating" party on January 6. Spend the day taking down the tree and other holiday trimmings at a leisurely pace.

Have a quiet dinner of Mexican food afterward, if you want to lend a south-of-the-border flavor to the evening. Discuss what you liked about this X-mas season and what you might want to do differently next year. Think of it as "thinking out loud" time, though - not as a serious planning session.

Read the story of the Nativity and the three wise men who journeyed toward Bethlehem. While you're at it, read The story of the other wise man by Henry Van Dyke; it casts a slightly different perspective on the whole idea of X-mas.

Serve a rosca de reyes (king's crown), a crown-shaped sweet bread with small figures of babies baked inside. In Mexico, anyone who gets a piece with a baby inside has to give another party on or before Candlemas, on February 2, when the country's holiday season officially ends. A good way to extend the partying into the new year.

Make this the day you exchange gifts with friends. You'll avoid another must-do event on December's calendar, and you'll be able to put off some of your shopping until after the holidays, when you can take advantage of post X-mas sales.

The children's version of a king's crown takes different forms in different countries, but basically it's a cake with a trinket baked inside it. Whoever gets the piece with the trinket reigns as king or queen of the feast and gets to order everyone else around ' an extra-special treat if "everyone else" includes older brothers and sisters.

Children love to decorate king's crowns. Bake your own from a recipe - or simply buy a cake, cut a slit, and insert a bean or a trinket (or two trinkets if you want your feast to have both a king and a queen). Frost the cake in white icing tinted with yellow food coloring to achieve a crown-like shade of gold. Then turn the kids loose trimming it with "jewels" in the form of jelly beans, gumdrops, and gold and silver balls.

Make sure the babies, or whatever objects you put in your rosca de reyes, are too large to be accidentally swallowed. If you have very young children, use easily digestible "trinkets" such as big pieces of fruit.

Merry X-mas!

The story of the other wise man by Henry Van Dyke

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