The tradition in Spain is that Los Reyes Magos, known as The Three Wise Men or the Three Kings, in English, bring Spanish children their gifts on the Day of the Epiphany, January 6th. This commemorates the day when the Three Wise Men, following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Baby Jesus.
In December, all Spanish children write letters to the Kings, telling them the presents they want to receive. A few days after Christmas, children can give their letters personally to the special emissaries and real postmen, who make an appearance in the center of all the cities and villages. They ask the children if they have been good at school and with their families, because the ones who didn’t behave usually receive coal. But, in reality, it is a “sweet” punishment, because it is made of sugar.
Then, on the evening of January 5th, all families go on to the streets to welcome the Three Wise Men. Depending on the city, the arrival of the Kings is completely different. For example, in Madrid they arrive at the airport by plane; in Barcelona, they arrive at the harbor by boat; in Alarilla (Guadalajara) they are so adventurous that they arrive paragliding. After the arrival, the traditional “Cabalgata” (Cavalcade) starts, and the procession goes through the main streets of each city and village. Different floats carry the Kings and their royal pages, who throw sweets and candy to the children who follow them. It is a colorful and fun experience for everyone. Usually there is also a music band that plays Christmas songs.
When the Cabalgata is over, the children go to sleep very excited, waiting for the next morning to see what presents the three Kings left for them. Before going to bed, the kids usually place some water and bread on their windowsills for the Kings’ camels.
On January 6th families eat the “Roscón de Reyes” for dessert, which is a round cake that has candied fruit. Inside it has two surprises, a good one and one not so good. The good one is a figurine, usually one of the three Wise Men, and the lucky one who gets it, receives a King’s crown that comes with the cake. The negative surprise has the shape of a bean, and the one who gets it in his slice of cake, has to pay for the “Roscón” next year.
Without any doubt, this was my favorite day of the year when I was a kid. And still now, if I travel to Spain during the holidays, I love watching the children’s enthusiasm on this magical day.
Sra. Loreto Romeu
LAL Spanish Teacher