Plastic babies in bread

Rosca de Reyes bread for sale at HEB on San Dario, Laredo, Texas

Could the story behind the Rosca de Reyes be any more exciting?

It was a dark and stormy Catholic Epiphany and day of los Tres Reyes Magos. Baby Jesus decides to hide from Herod in a giant round ring of sugary bread. A knife (aka – all the danger he is in) gets closer and closer with every piece eaten. All of a sudden… CHOMP! Someone bites down on his little plastic head! Oh no – now that person has to make tons of tamales for everyone on the 2nd of February. At least by then plastic baby Jesus would have brushed off the crumbs and will be waiting for a whole new wardrobe.

If you couldn’t follow along, not to worry, it is a Catholic and very Laredo tradition for January 6th. Interesting traditions we see not only on the border but all over the Americas. Inside-Mexico.com has a better explanation and even a recipe if you are not going to buy a Rosca de Reyes at the bait & switch local HEB.

The Merienda de Reyes is truly a multicultural event. The Spaniards brought the tradition of celebrating the Epiphany and sharing the Rosca to the New World. The Rosca is served along with Tamales, made of corn which was the pre-Hispanic food per excel lance, and hot chocolate. Chocolate is also a gift from the native peoples of the New World.

Hidden inside this delicious Rosca, a plastic figurine of the 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, hopping 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.

As many know, the Rosca de Reyes is also known as the Three King’s cake and the Dia de los Reyes Magos is the Three Kings day, visit of the Magi. In many Latin American countries, this is the day that children get small gifts if they leave grass/hay in their shoes under their bed for the Magi’s camels to eat. The traditions vary and you don’t hear it as often in Laredo as much as I did up North where there was more of a Puerto Rican, Cuban and Mexican (from the interior) influence.

Whatever your tradition, I am sure we all can agree – January 6 is the day to take down your Christmas decorations. If it is not down by the 6th, I am already predicting that they are not coming down at all – flojos!

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About Que Fregados

Que Fregados is a quirky look at little things that strike us funny in Laredo and the unique Latino culture. Suggestions and comments are welcome. You can also email to quefregados@gmail.com.
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13 Responses to Plastic babies in bread

  1. tricia driscoll says:

    I saw someone at HEB Plus with this odd pastry in their cart and wondered what it was. But, I have to ask….has anyone verified that the plastic baby baked into the bread is BPA free? What kind of figurine is it? If it is baked with the bread, it seems like it could be toxic to ingest the surrounding bread- Just wondering!

    • Que Fregados says:

      See the little white specks (about 4-5) on the lower part of the cakes facing the camera? If you make a homemade one, some people will put in a pebble or something else to symbolize the “baby” but good old HEB gives you a few to just jab into the cake before you serve it so it is a surprise when it is cut. My family didn’t have this particular tradition but it is HUGE in Laredo as you might have guessed by the signs at some bakeries and our local food stores.

      The idea is that whoever gets the baby (now you can share the responsibility, hence more than 1 plastic baby) has to host the get together. The actual get together at my partner’s house (his aunt always does it) usually involves praying a rosary and putting new clothes on a statue of a baby Jesus and putting him to “sleep” in a nicho she has for him.

      The tamales and champurrado (a thick chocolate drink) usually come after the prayer and respect to the baby Jesus. Interesting, no? My family loosely followed these traditions so I am familiar with them but never really participated as much as I have in Laredo.

  2. MaryHelen says:

    In Laredo, any excuse to eat pan de dulce and tamales and chocolate is a good one.

    Isn’t there something similar for Mardi Gras?

    • Que Fregados says:

      Hmmm… tamales and Mardi Gras… jk. MaryHelen, be they by a French name or a Spanish name or an English one, the catholic holidays are pretty much the same – just celebrated slightly different. It may not involve tamales necessarily but yeah, fat Tuesday is about eating rich & fat food right before Lent.

  3. tricia driscoll says:

    I find this tradition very interesting, but I’m still wondering how safe it is to eat a bread with a plastic baby baked into it. Or, maybe, there is some other novel way they get the figuring in there? I may have to just buy one of those things to examine the baby myself- I can’t imagine it’s a good idea to bake a plastic anything into bread that is intended for consumption….hmmmm….. 🙂

  4. tricia driscoll says:

    oh never mind- I’m slow. I see your last post indicates they don’t bake the babies into the bread but they are inserted before eating. Forgive me, please. Thanks for the response! I feel much better now. I might actually eat a piece now! hahahaha!

  5. Maximiliano says:

    Hey QF, thanks for your suggestions on the blogging problems. I was eventually able to blog-but not with all the options I usually had access to. Maybe it’ll work normally later on. Thanks very much

  6. Rosario says:

    Actually, the nativity comes down on February 2nd, el dia
    de la Candelaria. This is when those who found the baby (babies) in
    the Rosca de Reyes, on January 6th (el dia de los Santos Reyes),
    host a tamalada to coordinate with the lifting and putting away of
    the baby Jesus and the rest of the Holy Family and nacimiento. This
    supposedly designates the end of the Christmas season.

  7. rick78 says:

    Ahhh MARTI GRAS just around the corner big celebration in Galveston. Wild party before the Lent season muncho skin shown by the female gender (.)(.) 🙂 ! A real parade unlike the WBCA one .

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