Christmas in Mexico: Innocents’ Day, Epiphany, and Candlemas
In spite of the gruesome deed it commemorates, Mexicans celebrate Día de los Inocentes, or Holy Innocents’ Day, December 28, with high spirits. Tradition calls for the playing of practical jokes and tricks on the unwary. The one who is tricked is referred to as an inocente, or an "innocent.”
In Mexico children traditionally receive their Christmas presents on Epiphany, which they call Día de los Reyes, or Three Kings’ Day. The Three Kings, or Magi, serve as Mexico’s gift bringers. According to Mexican folklore, the Three Kings journey around the world on the eve of Epiphany, rewarding well-behaved children with Christmas presents. In anticipation of these treats children place their shoes near the family Nativity scene or just outside a door or window. Often they leave straw and a dish of water to refresh the Wise Mens’ camels. In the morning they find the water and straw gone and their shoes spilling over with gifts. Three Kings’ Day celebrations usually feature a special ring-shaped bread or cake called La Rosca de los Reyes, or "Three Kings’ Cake.” Bakers insert a tiny doll in the batter for each cake. Whoever finds the doll in their slice of cake will have good luck in the coming year. Lastly, Mexicans finally complete their Nativity scenes on Epiphany, moving the figurines representing the Three Kings into the stable that shelters the Holy Family.
The Christmas season ends with Candlemas on February 2. On this day many families take down their Nativity scenes and store them until the following year.