The UK may be knee deep in the post Christmas bargain sales but it doesn’t mean that the whole world has gone quite so mad.
Two of The Three Kings
THE COMING OF THE KINGS
In Spain and Latin America thousands of children have been anxiously awaiting ‘The Day of the Kings’ [El Día de los Reyes”] on the 6th January when they get their presents.
The Three Kings represented Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively when they travelled by horse, camel and elephant to give their gifts to the baby Jesus on the 6th January. So in Spain the magic builds for the 6th.
The fun begins on the evening of the 5th when up and down the country in little villages and cities the Three Kings, sometimes mounted on camels, will lead a procession through the streets. In some places their arrival is spectacular, in Barcelona for example the Three Kings arrive by sea whilst in the village of Alarilla they are daring enough to arrive by hand glider. (I have a feeling that being fit and active is a necessity on the CV of these Kings. I won’t apply).
When I first lived in Spain, the Kings threw sweets, various goodies, packets of crisps, confetti and little toys to the many excited children who lined the streets, but I’ve noticed the last couple of years it’s mainly sweets and confetti that they throw (austerity measures I imagine).
I’ve seen many parades and they have varied from place to place. Years ago there were numerous camels, horses and even elephants in the parade but just lately there have been a lot less animals and geese have squeezed out the elephants.
Thanks to www.penhook.org for this brilliant photo of well behaved geese.
Yes, geese! Mind you I think that geese are far more entertaining than elephants. Watching the poor herdsmen endeavour to control a gaggle of 40 odd geese is an amazing and very funny sight especially as the geese are a law unto themselves. They all walk forward like a little army - or run backwards or even sideways when the mood of the group changes, and sometimes they split up in many directions and cause havoc.
There are brightly coloured floats often with popular children’s characters as their theme. Many of the people on the floats also throw sweets for the children.
Eager children with their carrier bags hoping for sweets!
The children lining the roads often dance to the many bands that intersperse the parade and swing their carrier bags (brought in the hope of filling with the goodies thrown by the people in the parade). I’m afraid it’s a bit of a free for all once the sweets are thrown.
At the end of the parade the Kings arrive as some pre-determined place where they sit on thrones. The children can then give them their letter if they haven’t already posted it beforehand and receive a present.
After the parade the excited children go home to go to bed, for they believe that no King will climb through their window laden with presents unless they are asleep.
NO CARROTS FOR RUDOLPH IN SPAIN
Children know that before sleep they must put water and bread on the windowsill for the camels, and leave their shoes at the bottom of their bed ready for their presents. The children of a Spanish friend of mine always asked to borrow their Dad’s big boots for this job …the Kings must have thought these children had unusually big feet!
WATCH YOUR TEETH ON THE ROSĆON
Next morning it is the tradition to eat Roscón, which is sweet, donut-shaped bread. Although I believe some households eat it after the parade itself as well. Inside the bread, which is covered in glacier cherries and sugar there will be a little plastic toy — so watch out if you have fragile teeth!
Roscón de Reyes bread
The toy is supposed to be the baby Jesus although I had an unrecognizable figure in bread that I bought last year at the panaderia shop. It could have been a kangaroo or a star wars figure for all I knew. Still I was supposed to be lucky to be the person that found it in their slice of bread, although I didn’t have a very good 2015 if the truth be known. If you fancy having a go at making a Rosćon then here’s a link to an online recipe by Lisa and Tony Sierra http://spanishfood.about.com/od/dessertssweets/r/roscondereyes.htm
There are plans in Madrid to replace either Melchior or Caspar with a queen this year. Mmm I’m sure you can imagine the furore this is causing can’t you?
Being a large city means that several different parades take place in various areas. In the eastern district of San Blas-Canillejas they’ve voted to make the swap and there are plans afoot for the districts of Puente de Vallecas and Usera to do the same. Parade organisers are considering making the swap in reference to the work on gender equality being carried out by local groups.
Although the council is not involved in making the decision the politicians have had plenty to say about it, with comments ranging from ‘It’s the fruit of leftist phobia against Christianity and an attempt to rid Christmas of religion’ (Isabel Rosell) to ‘I don’t have a problem with it’ (Marta Gómez).
Madrid has recently been hell-bent on controversy in connection with the Three Kings parades.
Last September it promised that a black person should play the role of Balthazar, and also to end to the long-criticised tradition of white city councillors being painted black for the city’s biggest street parade.
Come next Tuesday night we shall see what happens but I feel sure that once Madrid changes its practices then the rest of Spain will slowly but surely follow.
Happy New Year everyone.