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Friday, January 3, 2014 (read 4000 times)

The Tradition of the Three Kings in Spain

by Tyson

On January 5th, many cities and towns across Spain, Latin America, and other parts of the world host parades featuring 3 special figures: Kings Gaspar, Melchior and Baltasar. Much like Santa’s yearly gift giving duties on Christmas Eve, the three kings (los Reyes Magos in Spanish) are responsible for delivering presents to children on the eve of Kings’ Day, el Dia de los Reyes Magos (the feast of the Epiphany).  The tradition of the three kings recalls the biblical tale of three magi who visited a new born Jesus to offer him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  

Three Kings Day Parades

During the highly animated parades, the kings ride through town sporting full royal regalia as assistance toss candy and sometimes toys to the frenzied approval of the observers. Kings’ carriages are often wonderfully decorated and many parades also include other types of carriages that may carry people in variously themed costumes or local children. In coastal locations the kings may arrive by boat, in other places they may make their exuberant entrance by train, some lucky children will even witness the noble trio descend upon their hometown by helicopter. In many instances, the kings parade on camelback, a clear reference to the biblical story that inspired the tradition. In all cases, excited children hope to catch glimpses of the three magical folks they hope will personally visit their homes to deposit the toys they’ve carefully selected and indicated in letters they’ve written to the kings.

In the US, Three Kings Day parades are held in several cities including New York and Miami. Disney California Adventure park also throws a special celebration for the kings.   

After all the hype of the parade, eager children are expected to observe strict bed times so the kings may enter homes and go about their gift distribution uninterruptedly. Although putting restless kids to bed after such an emotional evening may seem like an overwhelming task for parents, subtly reminding kids that only well behaved children receive gifts at all often proves an effective strategy.         

Kings’ Day parades date back to at least 1866, when Alcoy, Spain kicked off their local festivities with kings parading and offering gifts to sick children, as reported in the city’s newspaper. Several years later, page boys and royal assistances also began making appearances in the event. An early Kings Day parade was also held in Madrid in 1929, an event sponsored by Madrid’s El Heraldo newspaper and the local government in which toys donated to the paper were offered to sick children.

Today the tradition continues to thrive, particularly in Spanish speaking areas, despite the growing global presence of Santa Claus, or Papa Noel. Kings Days parades are held in parts of the Philippines and celebrations are also common in some areas of Central Europe.

Keywords: three kings,hispanic culture,christmas in spain,spanish holidays,spanish christmas,spanish traditions

Posted In: Spain, Latin America, Culture


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