With Christmas now all but a distant memory, millions of children around the world will be playing with their new toys and crossing each item of their lists. However, thanks to the widely varying traditions established in different countries, some had to wait a lot longer than others to see if their wishes came true. While the majority of Europe has firmly embraced Father Christmas and the 25th December, presents in Spain traditionally arrive with the Three Kings, or Los Tres Reyes Magos, who don’t show up until the 5th of January – the eve of Epiphany.
Spanish children still receive some presents on Christmas Day, but most are reserved for el Día de Los Reyes. On Boxing Day, children write letters to the Kings, describing the toys and presents they’d like to receive. Then, as the 5th of January draws to a close, children across Spain leave a glass of cognac out for each of the kings, as well as food and water for their camels, before heading to bed early in the hope of finding their presents in or under a strategically placed shoe the next morning. Of course, it is important to be ‘good’ during the year, because ‘bad’ children risk receiving a lump of coal in their shoe! Although in the UK and America the idea of receiving coal is now very much an empty threat, it’s not unheard of for the Kings to make a point of leaving a lump of sugar, dyed black with food colouring, to gently reprimand badly behaved children.
To allow the children to see the arrival of the Kings, cities, towns and villages across Spain will organise ‘cavalcades’ on Epiphany Eve. Often, each of the Kings arrives on his own large float, while their pageboys throw sweets at the watching children. Some children wait for this day to hand over their letters in person, while others rely on the new-fangled post office to get their requests in early. The city of Alcoy draws thousands of tourists every year to what it claims is the oldest cavalcade in the world, dating back well over a century. Later in the day, many towns will stage a Mystery Play, retelling the biblical story of the Kings’ arrival in Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus.
On the day of Epiphany, Spanish families gather to unwrap presents and eat a roscón, a doughy sweetbread shaped like a ring that contains both a small figurine of the baby Jesus and a dried broad bean. The person receiving the slice with the figurine is crowned ‘king’ or ‘queen’ and is said to have good luck in the next year, while the person with the bean is required to buy next year’s cake. Sadly, as this holiday is celebrated on the ‘twelfth day’ of Christmas, the eating of the cake marks the official end of the celebrations.
If you’re planning on spending a few festive seasons in Spain, you might want to consider investing in a property – either to rent out or as a seasonal holiday home. The country’s rich culture and famously balmy weather make it a top choice for expatriates from all around the world, and Engel & Völkers have a wealth of experience assisting international buyers in finding their perfect property. Just visit our official E&V website for more information.