The rosca or roscón is a large oblong donut served on or near the 6th of January here in Mexico. Instead of sprinkles or icing, the rosca is adorned with those all-time kids’ favorites: dried dates, figs, and mangos strips covered in chili powder. As kids, and adults alike, take a carving knife to their big holiday donut, they’re careful not to slice in half the numerous plastic baby Jesus action figures that have been baked inside. For if one is lucky enough to bight into a baby Jesus, one has the privilege, nay the financial obligation, to spring for tamales, enough to feed friends and family and family of friends on the 2nd of February, the Night of the Candles (and Tamales).
For the kids, the Rosca is more than just a pastry, it represents the second time of year to write a card demanding the quid pro quo of toys for good behavior. Rosca comes on the Day of Kings, specifically the three slightly tardy, gift toting Kings of Israel. Santa Claus has got nothing on Melchior, Caspar or Balthasar as they arrive via magic horse, camel and elephant, respectively, to leave just as they did baby Jesus: Xbox games and more mango strips covered in chili powder.
In fact, in many parts of Mexico, both Santa and the Magi Trio visit the kids over the holidays with Jolly Saint Nick demoted to the ‘bringer of socks, underwear, and all things kids need but don’t want, leaving really kick-ass gift-giving to those with a back alley Frankincense dealer.
So to all Latino parents who enjoyed this past week of last minute gift shopping and threats of “You better be good, or I know 3 strange men that will NOT be breaking & entering our house” - a threat slightly better than a fossil fuel-based present – consider tipping the hat toward the Three Wise (Hench)Men, that continue to restore order during your Yuletide festivities (read: debacle).
(Yes, that’s a Baby Jesus Action Figure poking his head out of a piece of ‘rosca’ donut)