Every early morning on the 6th of January, the Three Kings bring their presents to Spanish children. Later on at lunchtime, the entire family will celebrate the Epiphany enjoying a King’s Cake: the Roscón de Reyes.
Every year, when the darkness had been defeated and the days were starting to turn longer again, the Romans used to celebrate it by making a rich cake to honour Saturn, the god of plenty, wealth and agriculture. The arrival of the new year’s prosperity would sit —for once— citizens and slaves together to enjoy a pastry made of sweet bread, figs, dates and honey.
Thousands of years later and influenced by the original Roman tradition, Spanish catholics —as well as others in Latin America and even France— continue celebrating the Epiphany and the arrival of a hopefully prosperous new year — which in Spain is represented by the Three Kings or ‘Wise Men’— by gathering around the table to eat the ‘Roscón de Reyes’ or King’s Cake.
The ‘Roscón de Reyes’ is a doughnut-shaped sweet pastry which nowadays is traditionally decorated with candied fruit and sometimes filled with either cream or custard. A little trinket is usually hidden inside the Roscón. The tradition says that those who find it must pay for the cake, although I always remember how my mum would intentionally give me the piece containing the little ‘surprise’ so that I could keep getting over excited every time the King’s Cake was served on the table. And needless to say, I never had to pay for the cake!
The Three King’s Day is a magic day for everyone. Later tonight, millions of Spanish children will go to sleep wishing that when they wake up, the Three Kings will have visited their homes, leaving their presents behind. At lunchtime, they will cross their fingers, hoping that their piece of Roscón de Reyes contains the little trinket that will continue making the day even more magical.
Feliz Día de Reyes!!