Reyes Magos in Spain

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The last two weeks have been blissfully relaxing, but unfortunately, they are coming to an end. After a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s, I traveled up to Pamplona to visit a friend. When I got back, it was just in time to celebrate my first Reyes Magos in Spain.

The Reyes Magos, also known as the Magi, the Three Wise Men, or the Three Kings, is a very big holiday here in Spain, a holiday that rivals Christmas. It is comparable to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and it is celebrated every year on January 5th and 6th. In Spain there is a tradition of children receiving their presents from the three kings on the night of January 5th instead of Santa, but many households celebrate both. How awesome is that? Getting gifts twice instead of just once! I also love it because it means the holidays aren’t over on January 1st. Christmastime is my favorite time of the year, and I love how long it lasts in Spain! It’s two straight weeks of nothing but my favorite season!


Just like writing a letter to Santa Claus asking what they want for Christmas, children all over Spain write letters to the three kings requesting their presents. On the night of January 5th, there is usually a parade in every city in Spain called the Cabalgata, with tons of people on floats and on horseback, dressed up as Biblical characters, shepherds, and the three kings, Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar throw candies and sweets to all the children in the crowd. Usually, each person has a favorite king, and by far I think the most popular one in Spain is Baltasar. Sidenote, Baltasar is traditionally black, and since Spain is still coming to terms with the introduction of different races (to put it politely), and it’s a predominantly white country, in the parades and different performances of the Reyes Magos, it is still totally normal to see people with their faces painted black to represent Baltasar. I think my jaw literally hit the ground when I saw this during the Cabalgata in Logroño. Seriously, Spain? Not ok.In case you are like me, and you are religiously ignorant and have no idea who the Reyes Magos are, don’t worry. They are known as the Three Magi, the three kings who came to visit baby Jesus after his birth with pressies. Usually they are depicted on camelback.


Before going to bed the children clean a pair of their shoes, and leave them out for the Reyes Magos to leave them gifts that night. They also usually leave out a little snack for the camels and a shot of some licor for the kings in case they need a night-cap. Only in Spain. Shesh! Since most houses in Spain are apartments, and since they don’t usually have fireplaces, the Reyes Magos have to climb in through the windows and balconies. When people decorate for the holidays here, it is typical to see a miniature ladder with three men hanging out of people’s windows to represent the Reyes Magos. During the Cabalgata parade, ushering in the three kings to the city, there are usually several firetrucks with their ladders all decorated so that the kings can use them to climb in all the windows! Clever!

Reyes Magos in Spain

This year I celebrated my first Reyes Magos here in Spain with some of my Spanish friends. We went to watch the Cabalgata in Logroño before heading in for a fantastic dinner full of all new dishes I have never tried before along with lots of Spanish cava. For desert it is tradition to eat roscón, a circular cake with a hole in the center, cut across and filled with something, usually cream, and topped with some candied fruit. Baked inside the cake is a figurine and usually a fava bean. Whoever gets the figurine gets to wear the crown that comes with the cake, while the unlucky person who gets the bean has to pay for it. We didn’t finish the night until 3am! Only in Spain can you finish the holiday dinner in the middle of the night! And what did the Reyes Magos bring me this year? A new Macbook Pro! Just what I wanted! This is my first post written from it!

Have you ever celebrated Reyes Magos? What do you think about different Christmas traditions abroad?

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