January 3, 2009


Christmas and New Year may be over but the celebrations here are far from over for children because los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings/Wise Men) have yet to arrive. And Jesús may not have been one of the winners in the recent Christmas lottery, El Gordo, but he’s nevertheless struck lucky in his home town in northern Andalucia where he’s spending the holidays. For this year he’s been invited to be one of the Reyes - an honorific title as important to him for his participation in this civic celebration as Mayordomo del Trono de la Virgen de las Lágrimas y Favores must be to Antonio Banderas for his during Malaga’s Holy Week.

So Jesús, together with all the other Kings, will parade across towns throughout Spain on the evening of January 5th before visiting households - like Santa before them - to leave yet another stash of gifts traditionally opened the next day. However, if children have been naughty in 2008, they get a piece of coal instead of the presents they asked for. Could this be one of the reasons Spanish children are so well behaved in restaurants and other public places - infinitely better than their British counterparts? Perhaps Britain should introduce this stick and carrot approach too …

To Jesús’s disgust, the European Parliament has even tried to muscle in on the Reyes Magos celebrations. Traditionally, the Roscón de Reyes ("Epiphany crown"), a sweet bread baked in the form of a crown, is eaten on January 6th and has always contained small toys or coins. A porcelain figure of a baby wrapped in foil and a dry bean are hidden in the dough together with other surprises. Apparently whoever finds the baby will have good luck and be the Rey of the party, but the one with the bean has to pay for the cake! (Spanish infants learn early on the art of winning and losing.) The European Parliament, however, recently approved a motion preventing toys being concealed in food items but this was circumvented in Spain by reclassifying the toys in the roscón as "trinkets"! Much to Jesús’s satisfaction….

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