I thought I'd write a series of posts about facts and customs in Spain that may not be well known in other countries. I'll try to post a different fact or peculiarity once a month though not necessarily on the same date. Knowing how busy my schedule will be till June, it's the best I can do to keep the series alive.
Today is 6 January, the day of Epiphany in the Christian calendar. But in Spain (as in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Mexico) it is traditionally the day when children receive their Christmas gifts. The Three Wise Men (or Reyes Magos in Spanish) bring the gifts on the night of 5 January, just as they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus from the East.
image from Wikipedia
On the 5th children line up in shopping centres and other public spaces to meet the Three Wise Men and tell them what presents they want. They give them a letter with their list, so the super-busy Kings will not forget. In the evening of the same day the Three Wise Men parade through every city, town and village and, aided by their pages, they shower the expectant crowds with sweets and candy.
image source: Televisionando
image source: TurismoMadrid
The parades are really spectacular and a feast for the exhilarated children.
photo by Sonia Tercero - LaRioja.com
The catch is that on 7 January they have to go back to school, so they hardly have time to enjoy their presents and play with their new toys.
The Santa Claus tradition came to stay about 30 years ago, as Spain gradually abandoned its unfortunate political and cultural isolation and became part of the world. Santa Claus brought with him dazzling Christmas trees and presents for Christmas day. So now the children in Spain receive presents twice: first from Santa and then from the Three Wise Men.
Anyone wants to become a Spanish child?