What is Three Kings Day in Spain? (el Día de Los Reyes Magos)  

While the Holiday festivities of Christmas and New Year have passed, in Spain, the winter celebrations continue. Rooted in Christian tradition and evolving over the centuries, the arrival of the Three Wise Men is marked with a celebration known as Three Kings Day or “Día de los Reyes Magos” on January 6th. It is one of the most important days in Spanish tradition, blending religious significance with lively festivities, and in this article we will take a closer look. 

The Story of Three Kings Day 

According to Christian tradition, the Three Wise Men – Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar – traveled to visit the newborn Jesus, presenting him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Since the Middle Ages, these regal figures have been honored in various European countries. Spain is no different, making them the bearers of gifts to children on Three Kings Day, setting it apart from Christmas Day. And while some Spanish families have incorporated the Santa Claus tradition, Three Kings Day remains the more significant of the two gift-giving occasions. 

How is it Celebrated?

The celebration unfolds in two main phases: the January 5th parade and the arrival of the Three Kings on January 6th. 

Festivities kick off on January 5th with vibrant parades, known as “cabalgata de los reyes magos”, which take place in almost every city and town in the country. The Kings, riding camels or elaborate floats, become the focal point of these processions. Accompanied by dancers, musicians, and puppeteers, they toss hard boiled candies and sweets to the excited crowds of all ages lining the streets. Other floats in the parade take on cartoon or traditional themes with lots of music and Spanish Christmas carols.

On the night of January 5th, children across Spain set out plates of food or sweets for the Three Kings (much like leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus). Traditionally, the Kings bring gifts for the children, leaving them to be discovered on the morning of January 6th.

The Food of Three Kings Day

Of course, there will be some good food involved. After the gift-giving, families gather for an elaborate lunch. Traditional Spanish appetizers featuring cheese and cured meats precede a hearty main course. 

However, the culinary highlight of Three Kings Day is the “roscón de reyes,” a crown-shaped sweet bread-like cake filled with cream and topped with dried fruit – or “jewels”. It is not only a treat for the taste buds but also has two surprises – a dried fava bean, and a small king-shaped figurine. Finding the king bestows good luck for the year, while discovering the fava bean comes with the responsibility of paying for the roscón the next year.

Three Kings Day in Spain combines religious traditions, festive parades, and sweet indulgences, and is a joy to take part in, even if you are not Spanish yourself. If you’re visiting Spain or you have recently moved over, it is well worth taking the time to experience the holiday for yourself. It is a time where the country comes together to celebrate the story of the Three Wise Men, and the roscón de reyes acts as a sweet conclusion to the holiday season in Spain.

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