Tag Archives: Rosca de Reyes

Christmas in Oaxaca: Three Wise Men and Rosca de Reyes

It feels like springtime here in Oaxaca, although we are still celebrating Christmas.  Yesterday was downright warm, with temperatures rising to the low 80’s, though nights can be a chilly 45 or 50 degrees.  Christmas here is an elaborate and lengthy celebration, starting on December 12 to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe and officially ending with Dia de la Candelaria on February 2.   The Three Magi, or Wise Men, arrive on January 6, for Day of the Three Kings or Dia de los Tres Reyes.

Celebrated and tasty Rosca de Reyes

Celebrated and tasty Rosca de Reyes

You have probably figured out that food motivates me almost as much as textiles.  So, this morning I was off again to the wondrous, expansive Sunday tianguis — portable street market — in Tlacolula de Matamoros, ten minutes from where I live.  I wanted to see what was in store for food preparations.

ThreeKingsDay-14 ThreeKingsDay-17

Front and center is Rosca de Reyes, a round or oval fruit-studded sweet bread, a traditional delight.  Most Oaxaca celebrations are home and family centric, with a children’s gift exchange and a spin the top gambling game with whole nuts.  When you go visiting, it is customary to bring a small gift for children and one of these bread loaves.

Tucked inside the loaves are one or several little plastic dolls that symbolize the baby Jesus.  Whomever gets one of these dolls embedded in their slice of Rosca is obliged to host a tamale party on Candlemas.  Corn and tamales, symbols of sustenance, are interwoven into this and other Mexican celebrations.

ThreeKingsDay-10 ThreeKingsDay

Today in the Tlacolula market the bread section was piled high with pan de yema, a sweet egg bread, shaped in the round.   The vendors were doing a brisk business. This year, bakers added decoration of sliced, canned peaches to accompany the candied dates, prunes, pineapple bits and cherries.

 ThreeKingsDay-7 ThreeKingsDay-6

Live poultry, like guajolotes and chickens, are a big item, too.  Add to that roses ($1 USD a dozen), huge papaya (10 cents each), mangoes, melon, strawberries, watermelon, avocado (5 cents each USD), and any number of types of other fresh fruits and vegetables at everyday bargain prices. For those who forget to bring their shopping baskets or buy more than they planned, there are specialty vendors who sell these, too.

ThreeKingsDay-15 ThreeKingsDay-12            I like to arrive at the market by 10 a.m. to take a leisurely stroll through the streets.  Before noon, there are not a lot of people and there is no line at the bank ATM located on church side street.  Later, it’s packed and it’s like bumper cars with people.

Chicken meatballs in spicy broth at Comedor Mary

Chicken meatballs in spicy broth at Comedor Mary

Lunch is a special treat at Comedor Mary, located on the opposite side of the church on the street that borders the permanent market. Today’s special was albondigas con pollo — a picante broth with fresh ground and spiced chicken meatballs.  Amazingly delicious.

ThreeKingsDay-20 ThreeKingsDay-3 ThreeKingsDay-12 ThreeKingsDay-22

This is the season to come to Oaxaca and stay a while.  It is a feast for all your senses.  And it is senseless to stay wrapped up in frigid northern weather if you don’t have to!  Feliz Año Nuevo.




Rosca de Reyes for Day of the Three Kings in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

From January 4 to 7, the bakers in the village turn their attention to creating roscas de reyes, a traditional sweet bread adorned with conchas, candied figs, nopal cactus and red pepper strips.  For three or four days, there will be no other bread to buy.  We get our fill of this luscious cake-like treat.

Eloisa's rich, yeasty Rosca de Reyes

We are lucky.  Tenemos muchos milagros.  At Las Granadas Bed & Breakfast, Eloisa bakes Rosca de Reyes in her outdoor traditional orno or adobe oven. The oval or round loaves are sweetened, yeasty egg bread.

We see them piled high in the backs of flatbed trucks on their way to the village market.  For three or four days there will be no other type of bread for sale.  We get our fill of this luscious treat.


Find the tiny white plastic baby Jesus stuffed inside (each baker determines how many s/he will put in each loaf), and you will have the honor of  providing tamales and atolé for your entire family on Dia de la Candelaria on February 2,  40 days after the birth of Jesus. [My observation: In Mexico, the magic number seems to be 40.  Forty is the gestation time in weeks for women to have a “normal” birth.  Traditionally, women stay sequestered for 40 days after birth.  Moses and his people wandered the desert for 40 years.]

Recipe for Rosca de Reyes from Inside Mexico!  or try any egg bread recipe but only let it rise once.  Form the loaf into a circle or oblong shape.  Decorate with candied fruits and the concha (the little sugar buns that sit atop the rosca).  Don’t forget to stuff it with the little plastic Jesus figure.  If you can’t get that, then the fava bean used traditionally before plastic figures were available, will definitely suffice.

Buen Provecho!

We had ours with fresh steamed vegetables: green beans, choyote squash, carrots, along with quesadillas and toasted garbanzo bean soup, washed down with our favorite beer.

Hot Chocolate and Rosca de Reyes: Post New Year’s Tradition

Last night, after supper under the stars at Samburguesas munching on chile relleno torta and sipping Corona, we piled into the van to visit the godchildren of Dolores and Federico and bring them a rosca.  This is a large egg bread ring topped with candied fruits, sugar, and hidden little plastic babies baked inside.  Whomever gets the slice with the baby is obliged to offer a fiesta on February 6.  This morning I was awakened by a knock on my door at 8:30 a.m.  Norma, time for rosca and hot chocolate.  I scrambled to get dressed and join the family around the kitchen table for another Zapotec tradition.  Dolores had cut the bread in slices for each of us to take a piece.  There was a very delicious cup of hot chocolate at my place.  I eyed the ring and chose my slice, dipping it into the chocolate and taking a bite, repeating the ritual, as is the custom for eating pan dulce at breakfast.  I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.  No baby for me.  This is a very ancient tradition, Eric says to me earlier in the week as we snacked on rosca at Elsa’s house.  I wonder where it originates from.

Postscript:  Another supper at Samburguesas.  Federico explains the origins of Rosca de Reyes in Spanish and Janet and Omar, his children, translate and add some details they learned in school.  This was originally a European custom, they say, and explain that when the baby Jesus was born the three wise men (Kings) assembled from all over the world and walked to the manger.  One of the Kings rode a horse, another a camel, another an elephant.  One carried gold, another incense and another myrrh to present as gifts to the virgin.  The Virgin Mary was afraid and she hid.  This is why the little plastic babies are hidden in the bread.  In Europe, the bread contained a baby and a wedding ring.  The lore recounts that the person who gets the baby will be single all their life and the person who gets the ring will be happily married.  When the tradition came to Mexico, only the plastic baby was baked into the bread.  The person who gets the baby will get married and give a fiesta on February 2.

The bread is decorated with with red and green candied fruits — the colors of Mexico.  Janet and Omar say that they learned this explanation through their study at the village church.

This morning, as I sip choco-cafe in the kitchen before the taxi comes to take me to the airport, Federico cuts me a slice of the delicious rosca, then packages up about half the bread for me to take home to Stephen for new year’s wishes.  Buen provecho!