Tag Archives: quasi-religious

Dia de los Reyes

My friend is a student at the University of Southern California.  His mother’s side of the family is Mexican, and his father’s side of the family is Serbian.

My friend’s family still celebrates a number of Mexican traditions.  According to my friend, one of the most important holidays in Mexico is Dia de los Reyes, the Day of the Kings.  The day celebrates the three kings who visited Jesus in the manger and gave him three gifts.  The reason behind the holiday is religious – my friend is not religious yet he still celebrates this holiday with his family.

There’s very specific foods that people eat on Dia de los Reyes.  During the day, children receive presents (my friend puts it as “second Christmas on a smaller scale).  In the evening, however, the family eays a big meal.  The main course is not specific, but my friend has often eaten meat like pork and turkey.  The desert of the evening meal is specific – it’s a cake called La Rosca de Reyes.  It’s representative of Jesus’s crown of thorns – it’s a bread ring that is decorated with mainly fruits and sugar.

It’s traditional to also hide baby Jesus figurines within la rosca de reyes.  Whoever gets a piece with a figurine inside of it becomes obliged to organize next year’s celebration.  In religious communities that celebrate it, the figurines are also tied with a tradition of dressing a statue of Jesus.  My friend’s family isn’t religious, so they just expect the person who gets the figurine to organize next year’s Dia de los Reyes.   He says that his family’s celebration of this is not related to the religious event but related to just having a day to bring the family together.

My friend’s account of Dia de los Reyes shows how folklore can be reworked to fit different circumstances.  I think it’s unsurprising that his non-religious family would celebrate a religious holiday if it meant that it gave a chane for a family get-together.  Now that my friend is in college, days like this would probably be more meaningful for the family, as he won’t be around as often.

Ningún mono se ve el rabo.

Ningún mono se ve el rabo.

No monkey sees his own tail.


(Similar Proverbs: Pigs don’t know pigs stink, Before you criticize the splinter in someone else’s eye, remove the log from your own.)

My informant, who is bilingual, remembers hearing this proverb from her grandmother, born in 1915, and who moved to the United States from Cuba in 1976. (My informant’s mother came to the United States at the same time in 1976).

This was one of her favorite proverbs growing up. Notice the objects used in each version of the proverb. In Cuba it was a monkey, a more western version uses a pig. It appears that this proverb is localized to each region in that they use native animals for the proverb.

My informant did note that, although some versions of this proverb do come from the Bible, she felt that “No monkey sees his own tail” is more a reflection of her grandmother’s origins, not the similarity between her grandmother’s version and the version found in the bible involving removing the log from ones eye.

My informant explained the proverb to me as a proverb advocating self-examination. When you want to criticize someone for a small fault, look at yourself and any faults that you might have first.