By Tim Harfmann
Brooklyn bakers are working non-stop to turn yeast into a feast. “It really is a family gathering,” said Miguel Lopez, owner of Don Paco Lopez Bakery in Sunset Park. It’s a sweet shop that’s been making the oval-shaped pastries since the early 1990s. It’s for the Epiphany — or Three Kings Day.
The loaves are called Rosca de Reyes, or Three Kings bread, and they’re not your basic loaves. There are several tiny statues of the Christ child hiding inside each loaf. “It represents the tradition when Joseph and Mary hid the baby Jesus from King Herod,” said Paco Lopez Jr, who also works at the bakery. If you cut the bread and find a figure in your slice, you’re in charge of another fiesta. “You have to throw a party on February 2nd. Why February 2nd? Because we believe it’s when Mary and Joseph presented baby Jesus to the church,” said Miguel.
The tradition dates back to 14th-century France and was eventually picked up in Mexico. Each loaf takes about four hours to make. “We actually begin around 3 or 4 in the morning and it goes until 8pm or 9pm because people demand it,” said Paco.
There’s such a demand — over 3,000 loaves are baked at the bakery’s Sunset Park and Manhattan locations. The tradition is so popular that other communities — not only Mexicans — are buying the bread. “They want to bring this tradition to their children, even though they are not Mexican, because this tradition has been well taken by other communities, and we welcome that,” said Paco.
Three feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, falls on Sunday, January 6, 2019.