While it might be time to tear down the tinsel around 5 January, Christmas isn’t over in certain parts of the world! If you’d like to extend your Yuletide celebrations, but top your tan at the same time, then book yourself a ticket to Mexico for January 6th and keep on spreading the festive cheer with the Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day)!
What is Dia de los Reyes?
Three Kings Day celebrates the arrival of the Magi to the crib of the infant Jesus and their gifts of gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. In Mexico, children tend to receive presents from the Three Kings, rather than Father Christmas. Before they go to bed, young Mexicans leave out their shoes, containing a wish-list of gifts from the Magi. In the morning, those shoes are filled with presents; hopefully some of which were on the list! As some children in the Western Hemisphere leave out carrots for Santa’s reindeer, children in Mexico leave out small boxes of hay or grass for the camels who carried the Three Kings.
On this day, thanks are given to the wise men, with special traditional dishes served at mealtimes, the most important of which is the Rosca de Reyes: the Wreath of Kings. This is a sweet bread containing candied fruits and sometimes glazed with icing sugar.
However, the bread also hides a secret, in the form of a figurine of the baby Jesus, usually made of porcelain. Traditionally, the person who finds the figurine has to make tamales (Mexican dumplings) for everyone else on 2 February. If you happen to find yourself in a restaurant on the day, look out for pozole (a slow-cooked pork dish), bunuelos (deep-fried, sweet buns) and champurrado (a spicy hot chocolate drink thickened with cornflour).
Christmas on the beach?
However, the Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day) isn’t just a celebration for the home. You’ll find plenty of churches hosting bazaars and street markets, and it’s worth checking out what the community local to your hotel gets up to. Many celebrate with bright and colourful parades, ending in a party that goes long into the night.
If you’re worried about the winter weather, don’t be! While January in the UK tends to mean scarves, jumpers, and hot chocolate, Mexico sees temperatures between 24°C and 28°C, with temperate nights and at least eight hours of sunshine a day. Forget your winter woollies and pack your beachwear!
Lots and lots of cake
While most of us are thinking about renewing our gym membership in January, the Mexicans round off the New Year and Christmas celebrations with cake, which we think is a good idea! Head into Mexico City’s main plaza and you’ll find bakers selling rich versions of Rosca de Reyes, some of which are over two feet in length! In 2013, a new tradition was started when the city’s bakers came together to create a gigantic, mile-long, ten-ton version of the cake. Tens of thousands of locals and visitors came to help eat; it only took half an hour! This has been repeated since so, if you find you’ve run out of sweet treats, you know where to go.
Shopping and eating out
You’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants open on Three Kings Day, allowing you to eat out at some of Mexico’s superb, authentic restaurants and spend some time browsing for gifts and haggling for handicrafts. At times like this, it’s good to have your Thomas Cook Cash Passport to hand. In restaurants, you can use it just like a credit or debit card. Simply punch in your PIN and the money is debited from the card. However, if you find you need cash to hand, then head to the nearest cashpoint and you can pull out some pesos, ready to spend in a market or shop.
Using the Thomas Cook Cash Passport allows you to keep a proper eye on what you’re spending, making sure that you’re locked into the best exchange rates and that you won’t blow your budget. However, if you suddenly find that one little thing that you just can’t do without, you can add more funds to the card online.
Parades and processions
If there’s one thing Mexico tends to do better than anyone else, it’s a carnival. With the Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day) one of the most important celebrations in the Mexican calendar, it’d be silly to let it pass without a parade or two! Every region and parish of Mexico organises its own parades, and you’ll find elaborate floats peopled by locals in exotic and extravagant costumes.
Live music is only a guitar-twang away and usually accompanied by traditional dances. On top of that, the Mexicans need no excuse to get behind a grill and start cooking up a mouth-watering range of authentic and traditional foods, so you’ll never go hungry! While younger visitors might want to taste the chocolatey loveliness that is champurrado, there’s always a heady selection of tequilas for the grown-ups to get to grips with.
It’s at times of celebration that you really see just how united Mexican communities are. Part of the celebration is to make sure that all children, regardless of how poor they might be, get to experience the joy of opening presents. You’ll find that local charities accept donations of toys and games and your hotel may have details of any ‘toy drives’ taking places. These are processions of decorated cars and motorbikes that drive to hostels, hospitals and orphanages to deliver gifts to the underprivileged.
If you’re going out and about on the big day, the likelihood is that you’ll see men dressed as the Three Kings in shopping centres, town squares and parks. It’s also traditional for children to wear crowns on this day, so if your little princes and princesses have had enough of the beach or the swimming pool and need something to do, turn them loose with some card, some glue and glitter and get into the swing of things. Don’t leave your hotel without your camera, as there’ll be plenty of photo opportunities on Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day), virtually everywhere you go!