Although there are many different opinions as to where the roscón came from originally, it is likely that it came from the Roman winter festival in honour of the god Saturn. it would then seem to have been taken over by the Christian faith and eventually used to celebrate the day of the “Tres Reyes” some two weeks later.
Traditionally Spanish “Christmas” is celebrated on the 6th of January when the Three Kings (Tres Reyes) gave their gifts to Jesus. In a similar way to Santa Claus, the Three Kings give gifts to the children, but instead of climbing down a chimney they tend to arrive on all manner of quadrupeds or even on motorised floats. The streets are full of children keen to see the Three Kings and catch the many sweets that are thrown to the waiting crowds.
In some towns the Three Kings set-up residence in some public building then give out presents to the children of the town. The gifts of course were pre-delivered by the children’s parents, but they of course don’t know that. It is rather a shame that the innocence of our childhood is usually lost with age!
The roscón traditionally was a circular sweet bread which has evolved slightly over the centuries to include first a filling of whipped cream and more recently other fillings such as custard or flavoured creams. It also often has crystallised fruit set into the dough and normally a small gift hidden in the filling. The latter has in general little value. In some households, the finder has to pay for the roscón, so one is better off not being “lucky” and finding it!
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