Men Bearing Gifts: Celebrating Three Kings Day

Until I moved to live in Spain, January 6th only meant one thing to me – the twelfth night – or, more importantly, the day you are meant to have all your Christmas decorations packed away until next year.

three kings parade[Image credit: Flickr (CC) Paul and Jill]

Now, of course, I know that it’s the day that La Fiesta de Los Reyes takes place throughout Spain to celebrate the day the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem to present the baby Jesus with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.   It is also the most important day for Spanish children, as they receive their festive gifts from the Three Kings rather than Father Christmas (although every year Santa is becoming increasingly popular).

The fun starts on the previous evening, usually with processions passing though most towns and cities.  During the late afternoon, the crowds grow in anticipation of the arrival of the Three Kings on huge motorised floats, horseback, camels or, in the case of my local mountain village a year or two ago – in the back of a police car!

three kings float[Image credit: (cc) Paul and Jill]

As daylight fades away, you might hear the drums and music of the approaching parade, heralding the arrival of the Three Kings.

People on the floats throw boiled sweets towards the waiting crowds on either side.  But beware!  Some of the younger people on the floats can be rather enthusiastic throwers, with sweets being hurled out like missiles!  If you’re not careful you’ll get your eye taken out!  Many in the crowd come prepared, holding up-turned umbrellas to catch the booty, whilst others just scrabble around the ground, stuffing the fallen sweets in their pockets or bags.

It´s quite a sight to see adults scuttling around grabbing sweets off the floor totally without embarrassment – in fact, it´s easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all!

After the parade, most families head home where, before going to bed,  the children will put out something nice to eat and drink for the Three Kings, plus water for their camels. They also leave out their best pair of shoes to be filled with presents.  The next morning, if the children have been good then they will find presents in and around their shoes, if not, then only a lump of coal will have been left for them – though I suspect that doesn´t happen very often.

Roscon de Reyes

On January 6th, most families gather around the table to enjoy their Roscón de Reyes.   This is a ring-shaped bun or sweet bread, sugar-frosted and decorated with fruit flavoured jellies and fruit. The bun is sliced in half and filled with a mock cream mixture.  Hidden somewhere in the cream will be a novelty such as small model king and, if you are lucky enough to find one of the hidden figurines in your portion, then tradition has it that you will be blessed with good luck for the coming year.  Though I guess it would be bad luck if you inadvertently swallowed it and choked!

Belen in Malaga Town Hall

Nativity scene at Malaga Town HallThis is also the final opportunity to see one of the many Belénes (Nativity scenes) around the town or city.  I photographed this one inside Málaga Town Hall (Ayuntamiento de Málaga) last Sunday.  There was quite a queue to get in by the time I left.

Queue of people to see the Belen at Malaga Town Hall

Which is your favourite fiesta or festival?

You might also like to look at:

My Travel Reflections on 2013

Malaga’s Urban Street Art

The Buddhist Stupa of the Eastern Costa del Sol