Bright lights, extravagant parades and streets decked out in a festive mood – Día de Los Reyes Magos is undoubtedly the most celebrated day of the year for the Spanish.
The Three Kings Day, taking place on the 6th January each year, marks the peak as well as the end of Christmas. While the rest of the world has already packed up their festive mood, the Spanish continue their annual celebrations and turn it up a notch. Besides being a day of fiesta, it holds significant religious importance and age-old traditions.
Cabalgata de Los Reyes
The extravagant Cabalgata de los Reyes takes place on the evening of 5th January, kicking off the joyful celebrations. Each year, substantial amount of money and effort are spent on preparing the massive parade, with over hundreds of artists, technicians and students involved. Besides large-scale marching bands, live animals and glitzy floats, the parade’s leading icons are the three Kings of the East.
In most Andalusian cities, the joyful parade is held along the main street, where locals gather to rejoice in the occasion. Riding through the city in their camels or elaborate caravan, the Kings adorn dazzling costumes, shimmering crowns and huge smiles. Armed with bags of candies, the Kings throw the brightly coloured sweets to children lining the streets. Not only do the young ones enjoy the revelry, people of all ages take to the streets to join in the fun. It always ends up quite a hectic rush as both adults and children fill up their sacks with sky-falling candies.
Regarded by many as the grandest cabalgata in Andalusía, the parade in Malaga stands out from the rest with an extraordinary arrival of the Kings by boat. After a warm welcome by the locals, the Kings ride into town from the port along Paseo del Parque through the throngs of crowd. A child then reads a letter aloud, requesting gifts from the Kings on behalf of all the children in Malaga. As the parade draws to an end, the party continues with performances by a wide variety of entertainers, from well-known singers to illusionists.
That evening, as children return home for an early night, they leave out their shoes (not stocking!) in the most conspicuous spot where the Kings can secretly fill up with gifts. To lure in the gift-toting royal monarchs, children set out goodies and a bottle of cava as well as hay and fruit peelings to feed their camels.
Roscón de los Reyes
Come morning, the children wake up to discover that the goodies have been nibbled upon, hay eaten by the camels, and their shoes filled with wrapped presents. It’s this moment of the Christmas season that they have been waiting for – brand new belongings for the start of a brand new year. The spirit of giving continues to live on as the Spanish continue to worship the three Kings.
After tearing open the presents, it’s time for the family to gather around in their pyjamas, tucking into the typical breakfast of Roscón de los Reyes. While sipping tea, they share the excitement of the surprise ahead. A thick festive mood fills the air and there’s no hiding the alegria.
A ring-shaped egg and flour cake filled with candied fruits and mini trinkets, the roscón has a surprise in stall for everyone. The diced fruits are symbolic of the precious gems that adorn the robes of the three Kings, while the trinkets are figurines of kings and queens. The ‘king’ trinket represents good fortune, blessing whoever who picks it, while the figurine ‘haba’ (or bean) determines who will be buying the roscón next year.
Get yourself roscón next year, or better still, join in the celebrations with a Spanish family, and you’ll find yourself indulging in this unique cultural experience. There’s no better way to feel the Spanish intimate and traditional spirit than to be part of them.
As el Día de los Reyes draws to an end, so do the Spanish Christmas celebrations. After 12 full days of hearty feasting, pumping celebrations and blissful reminiscence, it’s time to pack up the Christmas tree and ornaments, and bring out a fresh attitude and motivation for the brand new year. Who’s counting the days to the next Reyes? I know I am.
Written and contributed by Nellie Huang