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Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos: How Bakersfield's Hispanic community celebrates Epiphany

Christmas may be over but for most Hispanic households the holiday festivities continue.

Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos, known in English as Epiphany, is celebrated on Jan. 6 of every year. The day marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar, who traveled from afar bringing gifts to baby Jesus.

According to Hispanic tradition, this holiday, also known as the Three Kings, is celebrated with gifts from the kings and by eating a cake called rosca de reyes.

Rosca is shaped in an oval and topped with fruit in the colors of the Mexican flag. It has dolls hidden inside to symbolize the hiding of baby Jesus from King Herod's troops.

Traditionally, anyone who finds a baby Jesus in a slice of the rosca is responsible for bringing tamales on Feb. 2 to celebrate Dia de la Candelaria, or Candlemas Day.

Local bakeries are helping keep the holiday alive in Bakersfield by selling roscas. Emmanuel's Bakery and Taqueria, located at 1329 E. Truxtun Ave., starts making fresh roscas a few days before the holiday to make sure they have enough for customers.

Rosalba Lagunas, 43, who works at Emmanuel's Bakery, says the Epiphany is one of the store's busiest days. Workers start at 4 a.m. to make sure they have enough roscas to sell. She said the bakery sells a few hundred every year.

Having to work all day at the bakery during the holiday does keep her from spending it with her family. But she says her family members still enjoy a rosca at the end of the day to celebrate. 

"The tradition of the Three Kings is something that was mostly celebrated in Mexico but over the years it's been celebrated here as well," Lagunas said. "In my family we share a rosca to help celebrate. It's the only thing we're able to do at the end of the day." 

Bakersfield resident Efren Martinez, 29, says he's been celebrating Epiphany for as long as he can remember. He said he is looking forward to celebrating the holiday this year in hopes of finally finding a baby Jesus. 

"Now that I'm older it would be nice for me to get it," Martinez said. "That way I can do something for the family."

Bakersfield criminal defense lawyer David A. Torres said Epiphany was one of his favorite holidays growing up because of its significance to the Hispanic culture. 

"Growing up Catholic, I remember a lot of folks did not celebrate Dia De Los Reyes and we were fortunate because that's when, in our culture, people would continue giving gifts. And as a, child receiving gifts was always pretty cool," Torres said.

Traditionally, the night before Three Kings Day children leave a shoe out and wake to gifts from the kings inside. Each family may celebrate with various gifts such as gold, crackers and fruit. There's no right or wrong gift to receive.

Roscas can be found at many Bakersfield bakeries. They range in price between $15 to $25, depending on the size.

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