Although in Tijuana and the rest of Mexico the Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, or Three Wise Men Day, is a very important day, among Mexican immigrants in San Diego the holiday is not as popular.
Maybe it is because many immigrants try to assimilate to the dominant culture in the United States, where January 6 is not as celebrated as in Mexico and Latin America.
On January 6, Mexicans celebrate Día de Reyes, the Epiphany, remembering the day when the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Baby Jesus.
But some people of Mexican origin in San Diego, don’t know the meaning of the day, or they don’t even know that it is a holiday.
“No, I really don’t know what that is,” said Sandra Sanchez, a 27-year-old hotel worker.
Others, knew of the holiday, but it is not a family tradition.
“No, I’ve never celebrated it,” said Luis Chavez, 30, who works at a gym.
Still, others don’t celebrate it, because they feel it is too banal.
“I don’t celebrate it. I used to, but thank God I learn what’s important from his message and now I focus on what’s really important,” said gardener Santiago Hernandez, 64.
But there are some people of Mexican origin in San Diego who have kept the tradition alive, such as in the case of Bertha Gutierrez.
“When we were children we didn’t open our presents on Christmas. We opened them on January the 6th,Dia de los Reyes. My dad said that was the appropriate day for opening presents because that is the day the three kings brought presents to baby Jesus,” Gutierrez said.
Rafael Solorio enjoys this holiday a lot, because he eats a lot of Reyes cake.
“We buy the rosca and hot chocolate. It is a very beautiful tradition,” he said.
In Mexico, Día de Reyes is classic.
Before going to bed the children place their old shoes under their bed or in the living room, where the Wise Men will leave them their presents. Some also place outside the house, some hay and a bucket with water for the animals, and even some cookies and milk for Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar.
Bakeries and supermarkets offer the Rosca de Reyes, an oval sweetbread, decorated with candied fruit.
Hidden inside this delicious Rosca, there are several plastic figurines of Baby Jesus. The Baby is hidden because it symbolizes the need to find a secure place where Jesus could be born, a place where King Herod would not find Him.
Each person cuts a slice of the Rosca. The knife symbolizes the danger in which the Baby Jesus was in.
One by one the guests carefully inspect their slice, hoping they didn’t get the figurine.
Whoever gets the baby figurine shall be the host, and invite everyone present to a new celebration on February 2, Candelaria or Candle mass day, and he also shall get a new Ropón or dress for the Baby Jesus of the Nativity scene. Usually on this day people serve tamales and hot chocolate for the guests.
The Día de Reyes is also celebrated in Spain, in parts of Latin America, and even in the United States, where large communities of Mexican immigrants have established.
Although a popular tradition in Baja California thanks to the immigrants from southern Mexico, it is in Mexico City and surrounding areas where Día de Reyes is stronger than anywhere else. Until a few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon that children hadn’t even heard of Santa Claus. Instead, they asked for gifts from Reyes Magos.