Celebrating Día de los Reyes Magos

Día de los Reyes Magos
Hey, remember these guys?

To all of you Christmas lovers who fall into a depression in the bleak, gray weeks after the holidays: move to Spain. They get an extension on the presents and national holidays and festivities.

Today is Día de los Reyes Magos (translation: Three Kings Day) and in Spain, this trio is way more important than Santa.

We celebrated all kinds of new holidays living in Colombia (remember my erroneous interpretation of Día de las Velitas?). While this one was on their calendar as well, it wasn’t celebrated in quite the same manner.

Just a quick refresh in case all you know of the wise men is their presence in a nativity scene. You know—the guys with frankincense, gold, and myrrh who are down there rubbing elbows with the shepherds. Their ‘arrival’ on January 6th is known as the Epiphany and is the day some Christian traditions celebrate the revelation of Jesus as the human son of God.

Apart from theology, Día de los Reyes Magos was explained to me as Spain’s second Christmas. Many families have a big get together and may even wait until today to exchange gifts. When the sun goes down on January 5th, little ones line up their shoes by the door in anticipation of the wise men passing by and filling them with presents.

Last night (the eve of Día de los Reyes Magos), all of Madrid was out celebrating. The biggest festivity was the Cabalgata, a special parade through the city center with impressive floats, all tossing candy to kids lining the streets.

Día de los Reyes Magos
Last night in Plaza de Cibeles, waiting for the parade
Día de los Reyes Magos
This telescope (with the fathers of astronomy waving below) moved a spotlight over the crowd
Día de los Reyes Magos
Following the telescope was a super cool balloon solar system (the glowy ‘being’ in the background is an astronaut)

The Kings were the last float to pass and closed the parade with confetti cannons and lots of candy. They were a big deal—both kids and grownups were going nuts. Just an FYI, it’s a roll of the dice to stay until the end. I insisted we stay and we were caught in a 20-minute human traffic jam. Oops. Maybe next year we’ll watch it on TV.

There’s one last thing if you want to tick all the Three Kings Day boxes: eat Roscón de Reyes. Also known as King’s Bread, this circular cake is covered in powdered sugar and candied fruit. Baked inside is a little baby Jesus and a fava bean. I was told that whoever crunches the bean is supposed to pay for the cake and the person who finds Jesus is crowned king/queen for the day. You may be familiar with this one if you’ve ever spent Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Being out in the festive atmosphere and watching everyone celebrate was a great way to begin again in Madrid. And the extra day off work isn’t bad either. Feliz día de los Reyes Magos everyone!

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