Photo: rosca de reyes
The celebration of Three Kings Day is a tradition that Hispanics have maintained in the United States, along with the “rosca de Reyes” ring-shaped cake that bakeries all over the country expect to sell thousands of.
In Chicago, for example, dozens of Latino employees work day and night to get the traditional “roscas” prepared in the Mexican style ready on time.
“We don’t work with big machines. We do everything homemade. We make the things with our hands, not with machines,” Jesus Salgado, a supervisor at Chicago’s Happy Cake La Baguette company, told Efe.
His workmates will mix together flour, sugar, milk, cinnamon, eggs, yeast and other ingredients to make the cakes that are traditionally consumed every Jan. 6, when Three Kings Day - otherwise known as Epiphany - is celebrated in Spain and Latin America.
Immigration flows have also resulted in traditions like this one being exported to other places, and so it is not strange to see bakeries in many U.S. cities working hard to prepare the roscas.
“Our founder, Mr. Gilberto Chavarria, came here to Chicago 23 years ago. And when he came, arriving from the Federal District, the capital of Mexico, the first chance he got, the first January, he began to make roscas,” Rafael de la Vega, another of the bakery’s supervisors, told Efe.
The strategy of the Mexican businessman was to make “a rather large number” of roscas. “He ... made gifts of the roscas to many people here, to the Mexicans,” in particular.
In this bakery, the dough is allowed to stand and rise for several hours before it is decorated with slices of candied or frosted fruit in various colors, as well as with dates and figs, before it is then put into the wood or gas-heated oven.
Sometimes the roscas are filled with cream, angel’s hair or chocolate and they are traditionally eaten for breakfast or for an afternoon snack with a cup of hot chocolate or “atole,” a hot maize drink.
It is said that this ancient tradition began after the Three Kings visited the baby Jesus shortly after his birth.
Although the details vary from country to country, in most places one or more small plastic or ceramic figures are hidden inside the dough before it is put into the oven.
Those little figures symbolize the baby Jesus, whose parents hid him so that King Herod would not find and murder him, according to tradition.
De la Vega said that this year he and his colleagues will bake and distribute about 6,000 roscas in Greater Chicago.
“Each year the number of roscas we sell increases, particularly in the zones near” the Windy City, he said with great satisfaction.