For most, New Year’s Day 2023 marked the sad end to our (somewhat subdued) festivities, and the return to the daily grind… but not in Spain!
We Spaniards love the festive season so much that the Christmas holidays always last until 6th January, when we celebrate El día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day).
El día de los Reyes Magos is a bank holiday in Spain.
For us, is one of the most important celebrations and a best loved tradition in Spain, especially for children.
Because it’s all about fun and presents! Yet this time, they come from the Three Kings, who are said to come into people’s homes through the windows on the night of 5th January, leaving gifts for everyone to open the next day.
To get presents, kids have to write a letter addressed to the Three Kings, or just to their favourite one: Melchoir, Caspar or Balthazar. Mine is Melchoir, hands down!
Children start writing their letters in December, with a list of the presents they’d like to get on the morning of January 6th.
To make sure that their letters reach the Three Kings, children have to hand it to one of the Three Kings’ royal messengers, found milling around all Spanish town and city centres a few days before the big day.
They’ll ask you how you’ve behaved throughout the year. If you’ve been good, you’ll get all the presents you wished for in your letter, but if you’ve been naughty, all you’ll get is a lump of coal (edible candy coal, of course!).
Well, the story goes that on the day Jesus was born, the Three Kings – also known as the Three Wise Men – followed a guiding star all the way to Bethlehem to bring him presents.
It is said that they arrived on January 6th, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (a spice) for the baby Jesus.
Celebrations might look a little different in 2023, as Gran Canaria is currently at alert level 3 – meaning there are restrictions in place that forbid large gatherings and events.
The celebrations usually start the day before, on the eve of January 5th, with La Cabalgata de Reyes Magos (the Three Kings’ parade).
People everywhere head to the streets to witness the arrival of the Three Kings, in carriages or on their camels, loaded with presents and accompanied by their helpers, who share sweets and goodies with everyone.
You’ll find different parades all over Spain, each one with its own style. It’s a real show of joy, light, colour and music!
And the best bit?
Everyone takes part.
But, if it’s too cold to be outside, you can always watch the Three Kings riding through the streets on TV from the comfort of your own home!
You might think that the parade gives kids a perfect excuse to stay up all night… but no such luck!
They actually go to bed early. Before they go to sleep, children put their shoes by the window, ready for the Three Kings to fill them with presents.
Well, I say children, but all of us – young and old – must do it if we want to get presents!
It’s also common to leave food and drink for the kings and their camels to enjoy after their long journey. Then, on the morning of January 6th, we wake up to find presents in or next to our shoes.
Families gather together for a feast that ends with el roscón de reyes (the King’s cake) for dessert.
The cake is decorated with red and green candied fruit, which symbolises the rubies and emeralds the kings had on their cloaks.
It’s baked with a tiny gift and a bean inside. If you get the slice that contains the gift, you’ll be crowned the king of the festivity, but if you get the slice containing the bean you’ll have to pay for the cake the following year!
So now you know how we celebrate the story of the Three Kings in Spain – and if you ever spend Christmas here, you’ll know why you might not get your presents until January 6th. Just make sure you remember to leave your shoes by the window!
¡Feliz Día de los Reyes!
Oh, and by the way…
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