One of the best times of year is Christmas. It’s the best because it’s the day we all get presents! But in Spain, they celebrate El Día De Los Reyes Magos. Did you know that? Of course, they still celebrate Christmas, but it’s no different to other holidays like Easter or Halloween. In fact, Los Reyes Magos is their version of Christmas! But what does this celebration mean? Who are Los Reyes Magos? Why are they so important to the Spanish community? Don’t worry, we’ll explain it all here. And, who knows, you might end up celebrating them more than Christmas as well.
Who Are Los Reyes Magos?
In the Christian tradition, the baby Jesus was visited by shepherds and “three wise men”, and in that exact order. There’s a reason why the “three wise men” are last. If you don’t know your religious texts, the three wise men aren’t actually just “three wise men”. In fact, they were kings of neighbouring kingdoms, who studied astronomy and learned about the birth of Christ, using the stars. And there were more than three kings who visited.
Of course, the kingdoms, where these kings came from, were far away, and the deserts and landscape around them were difficult to traverse through. So it took them a little more time to reach Nazareth, where Jesus was born. According to tradition, they managed to reach the stables 12 days after the birth of Jesus (hence the 12 days of Christmas!).
You should have guessed by now that Los Reyes Magos is the name of the group of kings that visited Jesus. This is what the Spanish celebrate. Their arrival at the stables, where the baby Jesus was born.
When Is The Celebration?
For the most part, the celebration takes place on January 6th, but in Spain, they celebrate both on January 5th and January 6th, and it’s celebrated throughout both days, to not only highlight their arrival at the stables, but the procession itself, since they were rich kings, and carried plenty of gifts and treasures.
How Do They Celebrate It?
In Spain, the celebration begins on January 5th with parades up and down the country, with the Three Kings Parade. Essentially this part of the celebration heralds the kings’ arrival at the stables. It highlights the journey they take across the land, to reach the birthplace of Jesus. It is a spectacle that everyone enjoys. There are elaborate floats, musicians, dancers, puppeteers. Think of it this way, it’s the Disney parade at Disneyland, but it takes place all over the country, on the same day. It’s a glamorous and entertaining affair. And if you’re close enough, you may just be able to catch some of the sweets and goodies the kings throw out to the crowd.
Of course, after the pomp and spectacle of the parade, comes the true feast. On January 6th, families get together and have a big midday meal, which can last for hours. Essentially, the big Christmas dinners everyone else has on December 25th comes around on January 6th for most Spanish speaking countries. It’s also on this day when children get to open their presents from Los Reyes Magos. And much like Santa Claus, they receive a gift or a piece of coal, depending on whether they’ve been good or bad throughout the previous year.
And finally, at around 6pm the Roscón de Reyes is brought out!
What is the Roscón De Reyes?
The Roscón de Reyes is a sweet bread cake that’s made into a crown shape, bejewelled by candies and can come with filling like whipped cream or chocolate truffles. But the real jewel of the cake is the little gifts inside for the lucky or unlucky ones. Hidden in the cake are 2 plastic figures, one a king-shaped figure and the other a fava bean. Whoever gets the king figure becomes king or queen of the banquet and it means they’ll have good luck throughout the year. But whoever gets the fava bean will have to pay for next year’s roscón!
What About Christmas!
Of course, Spanish families do celebrate Christmas, and some modern families also leave presents under the tree from Santa. So, some children get 2 sets of presents! But for the most part, Spanish families spend Christmas having elaborate feasts and spending time with their families. In fact, throughout the whole Christmas period, they do exactly that. Nearly every day is spent catching up with family members who they haven’t seen in a while, or gathering with friends and partying all day (and all night) long. But come Día De Los Reyes Magos, the celebration peaks, and signals the end of Christmas.
Are There Variations?
With every tradition and celebration across the world, there will always be a few variations, and like Christmas, it depends on the family that’s celebrating it. Some families eat the Roscón on January 5th, right after the parade. Others only celebrate the main feast on January 6th, this is particularly true for families in Mexico. And sometimes, families leave out dried grass or hay for the camels on which Los Reyes Magos rode, to get to the baby Jesus.
No matter how it’s celebrated, one thing is for sure, you’ll find that every Spanish household celebrates Los Reyes Magos more ardently than they do Christmas, and it’s a fun time for all the family, especially the day of the parades. So, if you’re lucky, why not visit Spain during this time and bask in the magic of the Kings? It’ll be a day you’ll remember.
Don’t Forget The Language
Of course, you’ll need to understand the language, before you arrive. So, why not brush up on your Spanish? We have some great courses on offer. We not only offer European Spanish courses, but we also provide Latin American Spanish, so you can be sure you’ll understand the differences between both sides of the Atlantic. And if you ever decide to visit either continent, you’ll easily be able to pick up their different phrases and sentence structures.