HARLINGEN — Ricardo Sanchez stepped into La Especial Bakery on Friday afternoon to make his “Rosca De Reyes” order for Monday.
“I’ve been celebrating with my family for 20 years,” he said.
“I think it is a highly important tradition. Like Easter. I celebrate it with my family; we have dinner and after that we cut the rosca. My favorite one is the traditional one, old-fashioned,” he said.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve are busy days for restaurants but when it comes to Rio Grande Valley panaderias (bakery in Spanish) the busiest time begins in January, according to local owners.
On Jan. 6, the celebration of “Dia De Reyes” is commemorated in Spain, Central American countries and Hispanic communities. It is a day to pay homage to the arrival of the three wise men.
The Mexican tradition for the day is to share bread shaped as a wreath and decorated with candied fruit. Nowadays, there are cream cheese filled roscas as well as strawberry filled, among other flavors.
A baby representing baby Jesus is hidden in the rosca, and whoever gets it is expected to host a party on Feb. 2, which is the day of “La Candelaria” or Candlemas.
La Reyna Bakery
Owner Yudit Orduno, 33, originally from Durango and Guanajuato, opened her family business seven years ago.
Since their first business day they began to sell roscas. Baking begins Jan. 2, according to her.
“Approximately, we make 150 to 200, but as they begin to sell we make more,” Orduno said.
“We always bake them daily so they are fresh,” she said.
Orduno said she believes they are selling more than before.
“We used to sell less of them. I think the tradition is incrementing in Harlingen. I don’t remember how much we used to sell but we sell more now,” Orduno said.
The bread has a taste of orange but at her bakery they have cream cheese filled, cajeta, pineapple, apple, strawberry and vanilla pudding.
They sell three different sizes and attempt to do whatever a client wants.
“We try to make everything different. We fill them with the flavors the client requests,” she said.
Her husband and son help out decorating and creating the roscas. It is fast paced but at the same time a delicate process.
According to Orduno, people start buying and ordering in advance and on Jan. 6 they sell out by the morning.
For Orduno, wintertime and the holidays are the most important dates for bakeries because of traditions such as this one.
La Especial Bakery
On the other side of the arroyo, another bakery prepares itself for the holiday in San Benito.
Miguel Ornelas, son of the owner, said the bakery opened in 1938. Ornelas said during the time they have been open they began to sell roscas, until 10 years ago.
“Slowly, as time progressed, people started asking for rosca de reyes, little by little,” he said.
Bakers begin around Jan. 2 and Ornelas said people start ordering before Christmas.
“I think it is a big day for Hispanic bakeries. I think because people are off during the holidays they order more,” he said.