LOS REYES MAGOS - OR WHY CHRISTMAS TAKES PLACE 12 DAYS LATER HERE ...
According to tradition in Spain, children receive their Christmas presents from the three "Reyes Magos" – Gazpar, Melchor and Baltasar on Sunday, January 5 (Epiphany Eve). Almost every Spanish city or town organises parades or cabalgatas (above and below) that evening - when the Kings and their servants parade and throw sweets to the children (and parents). Astute children (and parents) open umbrellas to collect them!
The parade of the three kings in Alcoy, Valencia (below) claims to be the oldest in the world, having started in 1886.
On January 6th, the centrepiece of la fiesta de los Reyes Magos is the Three Kings’ Cake or Roscón de Reyes (below): a sweet, ring-shaped cake with a small gift (a small figurine of the baby Jesus or another surprise depending on the region) and an actual dry broad bean (don’t ask!) baked into the middle. The one who gets the gift is crowned king/queen for the day but whoever gets the bean has to pay the value of the cake to the person who originally bought it or provide the following year’s King’s cake. Presents are opened as on a typical Western Christmas Day - only 12 days later!
As times change, many families in Spain are beginning to acknowledge Santa Claus and give gifts on Christmas Day. Some families even celebrate both!