In Spain, most children have not received their holiday gifts. Perhaps, they were lucky and Papa Noel (Santa Claus) brought them a token gift on the 25th of December. It is not because they were naughty, but rather because it is the Spanish tradition that Los Reyes Magos (aka Els Reis Mags, Three Wise Men and Three Kings) bring children their gifts on the Epiphany, January 6th.
In the days leading up to the Epiphany, most cities and large department stores, such as El Corte Ingles, have Royal Pages or Ambassadors of the Reyes that accept children's letters of gift requests for the Reyes. In Barcelona, there is a quite fanciful display in a "far east" style where children can meet the famous page, Patge Estel and get their picture taken in the city's town hall (Plaça Sant Jaume).
Today, in our nearby town of Sant Cugat just on the other side of the Tibidabo mountain from Barcelona, we happened upon the parade of the Royal Ambassadors arriving to accept letters. In the main town plaza, there was a huge tent for picture taking with the ambassadors with a huge line to match. Scattered around the main tent were smaller tents selling crepes, middle eastern pastries and traditional Moroccan tea. In Barcelona, there was an impressive event that gave children a glimpse into the Reyes workshop (see a video here).
The Three Kings of the Orient Arrive in Barcelona | Photo by: 20minutos.es
Tomorrow, on the 5th of January, Los Reyes Magos will arrive in full splendor by the Santa Eulalia boat in the Port of Barcelona. The mayor of Barcleona will give them bread, salt and keys to the city to open all the homes to deliver presents. In Sant Cugat, they arrive less glamorously (although many might say perhaps appropriately for the perception of its residents) in a helicopter. Regardless of how Gaspar, Melchor and Baltasar arrive in towns across Spain, there is sure to be a magical parade with lots of candy tossing.
One of the Reyes in Barcelona's Parade | Photo by: BCN.cat
A float in Barcelona's Reyes Parade | Photo by: elmundo.es
In Barcelona's parade there are three hours worth of choreographed dancers, large puppets and magical floats for Pages, the Royal Postman and of course, the Kings, each with a different theme. If you are curious, search for "reyes magos barcelona" on youtube and you will find a bunch of parade videos. I just love that Pages read aloud a "list" of children's names and addresses along with their corresponding gift lot number. Don't worry privacy diehards, the list isn't real, but children appreciate knowing that such a list could exist.
Before going to bed, children will leave plates of food for the Kings and their camels. My husband, as a child, used to leave grass clippings and water. I guess the Kings had to fend for themselves. Well-behaved children should awake on the 6th of January to gifts from Los Reyes and naughty ones may find a lump of coal.
What impresses me about these events, besides the quantity, is the creativity, thoughtfulness in execution and magic that these cities provide for FREE for their youngest residents. Although, according to La Vanguardia, Barcelona's Ajuntament is putting on a more austere parade with only 18 tonnes of candy tossed into the streets due to a 15% budget reduction. Perhaps that is why there are seats reserved for the Reyes on Barcelona's metro. I am sure children will be mesmerized and delighted (and me too!) by the huge production and visit from Los Reyes Magos.
:: More Information ::
- Barcelona's Ajuntament Official Information of Reyes Activities 2011
- My 2010 post on Los Reyes Magos in Barcelona