Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Twelfth Night

Or, as we say here in Mexico, "Feliz Dia de Reyes" (Kings Day, or Three Kings Day, or Los Reyes Magos).

Tonight's celebration eclipses Christmas in many households. Mexican children anxiously await the arrival of the Three Kings who bring PRESENTS. Although Santa Claus is running an increasingly close second in the race, due to the Americanization of the culture, Three Kings is still the big deal. Kids put a shoe out with a note delineating their preferred goodies. Smart, huh?

And how is it celebrated? With a Rosca de Reyes, of course. You couldn't get a foot in a bakery this last week. They're churning out this particular circular sweet bread by the thousands, each with it's little hidden surprise, a plastic baby figurine representing the Baby Jesus. But no one refers to it by that name, calling it instead the "monito." That's understandable since the plastic Jesus gets baked in an infernally hot commercial oven....much nicer to call him something else after he's been lightly toasted. The whole concept of roasting Baby Jesus seems a bit odd to me....but that's what they do....or at least cook the "monito." (the word "monito" comes from "monkey" which sounds pretty sacrilegious when you think about it. But it also refers to "cute," and "figurine." An odd locution.) This is pretty much the same thing they serve up in New Orleans and call the "King Cake" for the Feast of the Epiphany in the pre-Lenten season.

The Rosca is cut up and served to all the invitees at the party. The lucky person who gets the plastic figurine is automatically the godfather of the Baby Jesus in that house and gets to host the February 2 tamale fiesta for the same group on the Dia de la Candelaria. In Mexico, we like our fiestas.