Three Kings Day (Epiphany) in Spain
The Three Kings Day or Epiphany (Dia de los Reyes Magos) falls on January 6 in Spain, celebrated with fervor that involves plenty of gifts, sweets and parades. In fact, it is often regarded as the most important festival in Spain all year round, even more so than New Year’s or Christmas in Spain.
Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God as a human being in the form of Jesus Christ. It mainly commemorates the arrival of three kings or three wise men from the East who had journeyed to see Baby Jesus.
Three Kings Day Traditions in Spain
On the eve of the Epiphany, the 5th January, there are major parades in most Spanish cities (sometimes even in towns) to assimilate the arrival of the Three Wise Men – Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – to the city where Jesus was born. In the same way that the Three Wise Men gave gifts to baby Christ, they give out presents in the form of sweets to children around Spain – in fact; they are more popular than Santa Claus.
It is a major event especially for children, who wait eagerly by the main street of their cities for the arrival of the three kings. When the massive floats enter the city, children roar in excitement, ready to catch the sweets with plastic bags and umbrellas (you’ll be surprised by the creative tactics).
If it’s your first experience at the Cabalgata de Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day Parade, make sure you’re prepared for the crowd and the flying sweets – when they’re hauled at you from a certain height, it can get quite painful!
Right after the parade, most families head home for an early night to receive presents from the Three Kings. Before going to sleep, children put some milk and biscuits next to the Christmas tree for the Three Kings and some water for their camels. They also leave out their best pair of shoes to be filled with presents.
On the next day, 6th January, children wake up tosee how many presents they have received. If they have been good, they will find a lot of good presents but if they have been naughty they will find coal. These days, the coal is actually made of sugar.
In the morning, every family gathers at the breakfast table to enjoy a ring of roscon (a sugar-frosted fruit-filled bread). The breakfast tradition symbolizes that the person who finds a novelty such as a coin, in his or her portion will have good luck for the next year.
It’s a day of joyous giving but it also sadly marks the official end of Christmas. For travelers in Spain, all shops and restaurants are closed on this day, so make sure you’re staying with a local family or you have stocked up on Spanish food and drinks.