Vallarta Cultural Secrets

Kings and Hidden Babies:  Christmas isn’t over in Mexico until January 6th; Epiphany in Christian/Catholic circles, and another day to celebrate, eat, and drink. In Puerto Vallarta, you will find specials in restaurants, mounds of circular breads for sale in grocery stores and bakeries, and traditions observed in private homes. Rosca de Reyes is bread baked in the shape of a ring and every home must have at least one for the celebration of the arrival of the Three Wise Men.

Contrary to what most of us believe, the Three Kings as we know them, followed that star, got lost, found their way again, risked death and persecution, and eventually arrived to present their gifts to the Joseph, the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus.

One of our first Christmases in Puerto Vallarta, we were the honored guests of a Mexican household, and had the delightful experience of sharing the bread, called Rosca de Reyes. It was a great surprise to bite into a tiny, white, plastic baby, which was the prize (and often there are more than one); they seem to be sprinkled throughout.

What is the reward for this prize? Winner, winner, tamale dinner! That’s right! On February 2nd, there’s another holiday and the lucky person who got the plastic baby gets to make tamales! In the US and Canada we think of that day as Ground Hog Day but the origin symbolizes the day the Christ Child was presented at the Temple, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Of course, there’s a feast involved. In this case, tamales and we, thankfully, found many resources in Puerto Vallarta. For the amateur, making tamales is a lot of work. At that time, we bought them from a lady on a street corner, filling her with seasonal gladness, with us buying everything she had. We had to accommodate the huge collection of friends we invited; many of them ex-pats, as excited as we, to learn new traditions.

February 2nd is Candelaria, so called since the Baby Jesus was proclaimed the Light of the World, and candles are very prominent in the observation of this holiday. It’s not unusual to see processions of families to local churches, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in central Puerto Vallarta. Baskets and bushels of candles are brought to altars to be blessed for use in the home throughout the coming year.

February 2nd is also the halfway mark between the winter solstice and spring equinox, the fact that spring in on her way, bringing more light in the day.

Que es cómo es.


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