By Lisa on Jan 06, 2013 with Comments 2
Here in Spain it is the national holiday and celebration of the Reyes Magos. This is when we get our Christmas presents here. Well, it’s not exactly when I get my presents because being English we do it on Christmas Day, but many people here receive their Christmas presents on this day.
Here’s how it works…
In the story of Jesus’ birth it was days after the birth when the three wise men (known here in Spain as the kings) brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The reason why the baby Jesus had to wait for these gifts was because the kings had to travel to Bethlehem; there was no magical appearing in the middle of the night and climbing down the chimney.
Melchor a Persian scholar, Caspar an Indian scholar, and Baltazar an Arabian scholar had to follow the star all the way to Bethlehem to take the symbolic gifts to the baby Jesus and now, two millennia later, there are processions all over Spain during which the three main protagonists are these three kings, who are “bringing” the presents as they supposedly did to Jesus.
There are many children who believe they have seen Santa Claus but Spanish children really have seen the magical bearers of their gifts and they do so every year.
Here’s how we do it in Alcudia…
We have it quite easy here, with Mallorca being an island: the kings always arrive by boat and make their way around the town and neighbouring area. I don’t actually know what they do on the mainland in the inland area. Maybe you have experienced los Reyes Magos in other parts of Spain – how do they do it?
Here in Alcudia the build-up starts at 5.30pm in the port: people start arriving, excited children are running around, there is some god-awful Mallorcan song sung by a woman with a grating voice which is belted over and over again out of loud speakers, people greet each other and chat excitedly as they make their way to the harbour to get a good spot.
The kings are actually scheduled to arrive at 6.30pm so the boat brings them into the port at about 6.45pm accompanied by a loud fanfare.
The kings get off the boat and onto the waiting carriages which form part of the procession of floats that parades down the marina, through the port and up into the old town, finishing in the main square in the old town outside the town hall.
The procession is led by the “shepherds” on horseback who are all members of the local riding school and whose horses feature in every event going on at whatever time of the year. Following the horses are different themed floats with local children in fancy dress who throw handfuls of sweets into the crowds of spectators. Finally come the three largest floats, each one carrying a king.
The whole parade takes about two hours from beginning to end with a lot of stopping and starting, waiting for tractor-pulled floats to catch up with each other and waiting for horses that randomly stop and do their business.
This year I sat on the terrace of a seafront bar in the port and watched the whole thing trundle by me with a group of friends having a few beers.
Time for presents
After the procession at about 8.30pm the parents take their excited and very hyper (from all the sweets and anticipation) children home to discover that while they were out the kings had been and left the presents! See, doesn’t it make more sense than a fat man going down every chimney in the world?
So the presents are opened and then dinner is served. It’s not an elaborate affair like the meal on Christmas Eve; it’s just a few tapas and other bits and pieces because there is no time to cook a full dinner.
Something that you can do in Alcudia, and I’m sure that you can do it in other places too, is actually have the kings deliver the presents to your house and give them to your children: you wrap them up well in advance and take them to the town hall with your address and after the procession the kings go round all the streets, stopping at the houses to deliver (hopefully the right) presents. The only problem with this is that it takes so long for the kings to get round the houses that it’s often past midnight when they turn up and the children are fed-up and fast asleep!
This is still one of my favourite local festivals even though I’ve seen it many times and even though every year the floats are the same! Check out all my photos from the evening in the slide show below.
What are your Christmas traditions? The comment section is just below; help yourself!
About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....