How to Celebrate El Dfa de Los Reyes | Ortega
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How to Celebrate El Dfa de Los Reyes

In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, children receive Christmas gifts not from Santa, but from los reyes magos - the three wise men. This trio drops off treasures during the night of January 5 to be discovered on El Dfa de Los Reyes. Known in English as the Feast of the Epiphany, the holiday makes a useful addition to your calendar, whether you want to add more spiritual meaning to Christmas or just relieve some seasonal pressure.

Children love to decorate king's crowns. Bake your own from a recipe - or simply buy a cake, cut a slit, and insert a bean or a trinket (or two trinkets if you want your feast to have both a king and a queen). Frost the cake in white icing tinted with yellow food coloring to achieve a crown-like shade of gold. Then turn the kids loose trimming it with "jewels" in the form of jelly beans, gumdrops, and gold and silver balls.

The children's version of a king's crown takes different forms in different countries, but basically it's a cake with a trinket baked inside it. Whoever gets the piece with the trinket reigns as king or queen of the feast and gets to order everyone else around ? an extra-special treat if "everyone else" includes older brothers and sisters.

Make sure the babies, or whatever objects you put in your rosca de reyes, are too large to be accidentally swallowed. If you have very young children, use easily digestible "trinkets" such as big pieces of fruit.

1. Have a family "undecorating" party on January 6. Spend the day taking down the tree and other holiday trimmings at a leisurely pace.

2. Have a quiet dinner of Mexican food afterward, if you want to lend a south-of-the-border flavor to the evening. Discuss what you liked about this Christmas season and what you might want to do differently next year. (Think of it as "thinking out loud" time, though - not as a serious planning session.)

3. Read the story of the Nativity and the three wise men who journeyed toward Bethlehem. While you're at it, read "The Story of the Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke; it casts a slightly different perspective on the whole idea of Christmas.

4. Serve a rosca de reyes (king's crown), a crown-shaped sweet bread with small figures of babies baked inside. In Mexico, anyone who gets a piece with a baby inside has to give another party on or before Candlemas, on February 2, when the country's holiday season officially ends.

5. Make this the day you exchange gifts with friends. You'll avoid another must-do event on December's calendar, and you'll be able to put off some of your shopping until after the holidays, when you can take advantage of post-Christmas sales.