Sharing sweets

It was a cold and frosty morning. Christmas carols could be heard through the streets, and a few families were out shopping for last-minute gifts for the final days of the holiday season. Julia woke up to the sound of her mother and father talking, but couldn’t hear what they were saying. After washing her face, she got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. It was the 5th of January.

As Julia entered the kitchen, her mother asked her to go with her to the bakery to buy the famous “Roscón de Reyes.” While she ate her breakfast, her mother looked at her and asked, “Julia, darling, do you think we should get one for our new neighbors, so they can try it and feel part of the celebration?”

Julia thought about it for a moment, imagining her new Romanian neighbors having “Roscón de Reyes” without chocolate or presents. She turned to her mother and said, “We should invite them over!” Her mother and father exchanged a smile and nodded. “Alright,” her mother said, “let’s go quickly, or they’ll be sold out.”

Julia and her mother walked through the main streets of the village, wishing everyone a good morning and Happy Holidays. The streets were decorated with huge baubles and wreaths, and some workers were checking the lights for the Three King’s parade.

The air was foggy and cold. When they arrived at the bakery, they waited patiently for their turn and asked for their “Roscón” as they had done every year since Julia could remember. When Julia’s mum asked for a second one, the baker looked puzzled. “Having some guests over for the holidays, Maria?” he asked. “It’s for our new neighbors, just a small present for the season. They’re far from their families,” Maria replied. As the baker handed the boxes to Maria, and with a big smile on his face, he said, “That’s so great that you are sharing traditions from our culture with them, Maria. I hope they enjoy it!”

That afternoon, a few hours before the parade, the doorbell rang. Julia opened the door to find her neighbors – a father, mother, and son – carrying a platter covered in foil. “Good afternoon,” the father said, “we brought you a typical dish from our country. It’s a tradition to have it on the 6th of January and share it with family and friends. We know in Spain, you celebrate on the evening of the 5th, so we brought it today.” The whole family smiled, and Julia smiled back. Her mother appeared behind her, looking surprised, “Please, come in!” she said.

Julia’s parents went to the kitchen and made coffee. Blushing, her mother took out the two boxes of “Roscón de Reyes” and gave one to the neighbors. “We did the same,” she said. “We thought of giving this to you tomorrow, as it’s a tradition to have it for breakfast. It’s ‘Roscón de Reyes,’ very typical in Spain.” The neighbors smiled and uncovered their platter, which had what looked like a “Roscón de Reyes,” but instead of being round, it was elongated. “This is ‘Cozonac,’ very typical in Romania on this date too. I baked it this morning,” the neighbor’s mother said.

Julia’s family and their Romanian neighbors sat around the table, enjoying the sweet treats they had brought for each other. Maria poured some coffee and asked, “So, tell us about this Cozonac. What makes it so special?”

The neighbor’s father smiled and replied, “Cozonac is a sweet bread made with nuts and raisins, usually eaten during holidays or special occasions. In Romania, it is traditionally served on Easter and Christmas, and we believe it brings good luck and wealth to our families.”

Julia’s father nodded and said, “That sounds very similar to our Roscon de Reyes. It’s a sweet, circular bread usually eaten on the 6th of January to celebrate the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem. We believe that if you find a small figure hidden inside the bread, you will have good luck throughout the year.”

The neighbor’s mother was surprised and said, “That’s so interesting! We have a similar tradition with our Cozonac. We hide a coin inside the bread, and whoever finds it will have good luck and wealth for the year.”

Julia and her new neighbor’s son, Stefan, looked at each other with excitement. Stefan asked, “Can we try your Roscon de Reyes? I’ve never had it before.”

Julia’s mother smiled and replied, “Of course! Let me cut you a slice.” She cut a slice of Roscon de Reyes for Stefan and handed it to him. “Do you like it?”

Stefan nodded enthusiastically and said, “It’s delicious! It reminds me of our Cozonac, but with a different flavor.”

Julia added, “And our Roscon de Reyes is usually decorated with colorful candied fruits on top, just like your Cozonac!”

The two families continued to discuss their traditions and realized that they had more in common than they initially thought. They both believed in the importance of sharing sweet treats with family and friends during special occasions, and they both had similar traditions of hiding a small object inside their sweet bread for good luck.

As they finished their coffee and sweets, the neighbor’s mother said, “We’re so grateful to have met such kind and welcoming neighbors. We feel like we’re part of your celebration now.”

Julia’s father replied, “We feel the same way. It’s amazing how much we have in common, even though we come from different countries.”

The neighbor’s father nodded and said, “It just goes to show that no matter where we come from, we all share the same values of family, togetherness, and the sharing of food and happiness during the holiday season.”

As they said goodbye, Julia and Stefan exchanged smiles, knowing that they had made a new friend. Julia felt a sense of warmth and gratitude towards her new neighbors. She realized that although they came from different parts of the world, there was much to be gained from sharing stories and traditions with people from other cultures.



The tradition of eating Roscón de Reyes on Epiphany Day (January 6th) has its origins in Ancient Rome, in the Saturnalia or Saturnales festivities, when the Romans celebrated the days getting longer and gave out cakes with a bean inside so that the slave who was lucky enough to find it would be named ‘king of kings’ for a limited time and receive all kinds of favours and comforts. Later, in 11th century France, every village offered a sweet bun to the poorest children to celebrate Epiphany, and the one who found the bean was crowned and presented with gifts, clothes and delicacies of all kinds. This tradition eventually spread to the family level as well, with its own cake and the reward of presiding over the dinner table.

Felipe V was responsible for bringing this successful cake to Spain, Navarre being one of the first cities to welcome it. In most Spanish homes, on Three Kings’ Day, Roscón de Reyes is eaten for breakfast or as a snack accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate and, although it was originally made with sponge cake, honey, dates and figs, we can now find various recipes for Roscón de Reyes such as: filled with chocolate or cream and accompanied with aniseed or other liqueurs. The common denominator of this dessert is the candied fruit, the oval shape that evokes the crown of a King and, of course, the bean and a figurine inside.

Cozonac, meanwhile, is a typical Romanian Easter and Christmas dessert, consisting of a very tender brioche perfumed with rum and citrus fruits and filled with candied fruit. Its origins can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire, which ruled over Romania for several centuries. 

It is often mixed with raisins and it can be baked as a loaf or rolled out with fillings like poppy seed or walnuts. The first recipe of “Cozonac” appears in a cookbook in 1718 in Great Britain, with the recommendation to be baked in long and narrow forms. However, gastronomy specialists almost all agree that the Cozonac recipe, as we know it today, was consecrated in the 19th century by Europeans.

Regarding the tradition of hiding a coin inside the cozonac, it is a deeply rooted custom in Romania. According to this tradition, a coin is baked inside the Cozonac, and the person who receives the slice containing the coin is believed to have good luck throughout the year.

The tradition of hiding a coin inside the Cozonac is a deeply rooted custom in Romania and is still practiced in many parts of the country today. In particular, it is a popular tradition in the regions of Moldavia and Transylvania, although it is also practiced in other parts of Romania.

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