January 6th is The Three Kings Day in Spain (also known as the Magic or Three Wise Men) and is one of the most special and magical days of the year, my favorite day! Unlike Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, you may have never heard of this because it’s celebrated in very few countries.
I’ll explain the key points so you know what it’s all about and understand why it has such a special charm.
The Three Kings: who are they?
Many compare this day to Christmas in other countries, saying that the Three Kings are “our” Santa Claus. Well, it’s true they are similar in that they bring gifts to children, but there are also many differences.
You may be wondering if Santa Claus doesn’t come to Spain on Christmas Day and the truth is that the answer isn’t easy. Traditionally, no. However, in recent years the situation has changed a bit.
Our winter holidays usually start around December 18th and end after Three Kings Day around January 8th.
So, if children get their gifts on the 6th, they barely have any time to play with them and have fun before they go back to school. This is why many families prefer to give and receive all or part of their gifts on December 25th.
The Origin of the tradition
Let’s go back to Three Kings Day. The original story said that on January 6th the Three Kings (Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar) visited the baby Jesus in the Nativity scene in Bethlehem to celebrate his birth and give him three gifts (gold, incense and myrrh).
Likewise, if a child has been good during the year, on the 6th he’ll receive gifts from the Kings. But what if you’ve been bad? In that case, when you wake up you’ll only have received coal (which these days can be made of sugar).
But we’re getting ahead of events, because before to the Three Kings Day and the opening of the gifts, there’s much to prepare.
To begin with, children should write a letter explaining whether they’ve been good or not and make a list of the gifts they’d like to receive. Once written, it can be mailed or delivered directly by hand to the Kings by going to a shopping mall to meet them in person.
Gifts, sweets and the parade
The Kings not only go to shopping malls, but in each neighborhood on January 5th there’s a parade where you can see different floats with the Kings, camels, the pages (their assistants), all made lively with music and the sharing of candies.
The largest parades in the major cities are true artistic performances for both children and adults, and even the clothes worn by the Kings that year is debated in the news of the day.
After the parade, the evening is the most exciting time for children. Usually, milk and cookies are prepared for the Kings, water for their camels, and, in some homes, shoes are left out so gifts will be left inside them.
On the next morning finally comes the longed-for moment, the surprise of finding the gifts that the Kings have left for the whole family.
Roscón de Reyes
The Roscón de Reyes is the culinary delight that brings families and friends together around the table. This sweet treat, adorned with candied fruits and hidden surprises inside, symbolizes camaraderie and the joy of sharing.
Slicing the Roscón, eager to discover who will find the figurine or the bean, is a tradition that sparks excitement and laughter among diners.
The origin of the Roscón de Reyes dates back to ancient times when it was considered a symbol of good luck for the coming year. This gastronomic delight isn’t just a delicacy for the taste buds; it also symbolizes unity and camaraderie among loved ones.
In Spain, the tradition dictates that gifts are opened and the typical sweet is eaten for breakfast (which you might have already tasted during these days), called Roscón de Reyes.
This is a type of large ring-shaped cake with candied fruits on top that is made with a bit of orange blossom water in its dough (hence its characteristic flavor) and can be filled with whipped cream or custard and even truffle cream.
The crucial aspect is that there’s a surprise inside, a gift, and if you find it, you’ll have good luck. But beware, there’s also a dried bean inside, and if you get that, you’ll have to pay for the whole Roscón.
Do you enjoy Christmas traditions? Here’s a guide to the typical Christmas sweets of Spain.
After breakfast, it’s common to visit the homes of your relatives, picking up and exchanging gifts that have been left in different houses, enjoying food, and celebrating this final day that marks the end of the holiday season’s festivities.
The magic endures on Three Kings’ Day in Spain
As you can see, Three Kings’ Day is a melting pot of traditions, spirituality, and joy that transcends time and enriches people’s lives. From the legendary arrival of the Three Wise Men to the exquisite tradition of the Roscón de Reyes, each aspect of this celebration adds a special hue to the holiday season.
Three Kings’ Day in Spain is much more than a holiday; it’s an event that blends the ancient with the modern, the sacred with the playful. The magic and significance ingrained in this festivity make it a special day for everyone, regardless of age.
From the excitement of the youngest to the contemplation of adults, Three Kings’ Day in Spain is a celebration that unites families and strengthens emotional bonds in a spirit of love, faith, and hope.
The excitement of gifts, the magic of the Parade, and the delight of the Roscón de Reyes converge to create an unforgettable celebration infused with meaning and joy.
May the magic of the Three Kings illuminate your day, and may the tradition of Three Kings’ Day in Spain fill you with happiness and love.
With this guide, I hope to have taken you on a journey through the wonderful celebration of Three Kings’ Day in Spain, full of traditions, magic, and values ingrained in Spanish culture. Happy Three Kings’ Day!
See you next year!