Kings in Cajitilan take a boat ride

The Three Kings or Los Santos Reyes on Lake Cajititlan near Ajijic

The Three Kings or Los Santos Reyes on Lake Cajititlan near Ajijic

By Carol Wheeler for Go Mexico Way

Did you know that local kings take a boat ride each year on January 6th?

The kings are the three Magi, the patron saints of the nearby town of Cajititlan, just 6.2 miles from Ajijic, off the airport road. Situated on Lake Cajititlan, Cajititlan de los Reyes is known for its lakeshore charm and its beautiful 18th century church.

As in towns and villages everywhere in Mexico, the celebrations begin nine days before the big date — in this case, on December 30. The images of the Three Kings leave their home in the church around 10 a.m. They are carried through the streets of the town in a colorful parade, with authocthonous dancers guarding them. Musicians, floats, "kings" in velvet capes on horseback, and children wearing golden crowns join the festive procession.

Of course, a festival queen is elected each year.

Of course, a festival queen is elected each year.

When they arrive at the shore, each image has his own colorfully-decorated motorboat. The Three Kings tour the lake to bless the waters and assure a good catch for fishermen in the upcoming year, then they return to the parish church on the town plaza.

This year, the kings take their boat ride on Monday, January 7th. A special mass is celebrated upon their return to the church, and fireworks are planned after dark.

In the days leading up to the saints' day, you'll see carnival rides surrounding the plaza with its beautiful bandstand and quarry stone fountain. Food stands are also set up there for the town fiestas. They serve all kinds of delights, from nieve de garrafa (hand-cranked ice cream) to regional candies, fresh pineapple juice squeezed to order, and potato chips dipped from sizzling vats of oil and doused with chile sauce and lemon, if you wish. There are charreadas, too, where horsemen demonstrate their skill.

Thousands of pilgrims come to participate, so expect crowds if you decide to visit.

Rosca de Reyes or Three Kings Bread

Rosca de Reyes or Three Kings Bread

January 6th is Epiphany, when the Three Kings or Wise Men visited the baby Jesus with gifts of precious gold, frankincense and myrrh.

So you might decide to avoid the crowds to stay home and share a cup of hot Mexican chocolate with a special bread known as Rosca de Reyes — Three Kings Bread. Shaped like a ring and decorated with colorful candied fruits, it is sold everywhere, from neighborhood shops and bakeries to local supermarkets. The fruits represent the precious jewels in the monarchs' crowns.

Hidden inside the bread are tiny dolls that represent baby Jesus. The person who gets a doll in his or her serving of bread is considered a godparent to the child and must pay for tamales on Candlemas, February 2, for everyone sharing the rosca.

Children in traditional families leave a shoe under the Christmas tree or beside the nativity scene for the Three Kings, who bring their presents while everyone is asleep.

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