January 6 is Epiphany Day, and when I was growing up in southern Mexico, it was the day of the “Reyes Magos” (the Magi), who would bring presents to the children. It was kind of like Christmas, but instead of Santa bringing the presents, it was the three Wise Men. Early on epiphany day, my cousins and I would get up to see what gifts were in the living room or kitchen. Our grandfather would tell us stories that with his own eyes early, while it was still dark, he saw the three Magi riding on an elephant, camel, and horse leaving our gifts in the house. Of course, we would rush outside looking for any signs of camel or elephant footprints.
Later in the evening, all the family would get together and eat the “rosca de reyes” which is an oval pastry and has a few tiny plastic figures which represent a baby. They are all hidden in different parts of the bread, and when you cut your piece, if you get the “baby,” you are supposed to throw a party for everyone. Obviously, many are trying to avoid getting the little figure.
Customs are a part of our daily lives, part of our culture. It becomes easy since we practice it from a young age. It is when we encounter a different custom that it can become challenging, uncomfortable, and even seen as negative.
My cultural epiphany practices taught me about what it means to live in community, to share what you have, and to give when someone is in need. What are some cultural practices you have on epiphany or any other season of the year?
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