Sunday, January 4, 2009

Los Reyes Magos

The annual celebrations surrounding the arrival of the Three Kings, begins on the evening of January 5 for the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Parade), the oldest parade in Spain. All over the country, thousands of excited children and their parents gather along streets to greet the arrival of the Magi. Depending on the region for Spain, the Wise Men arrive by different modes of transportation... Some by boat, by train, on horseback, on ski's, on camels, or even by helicopter as they do here in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Even though it was raining in Santa Cruz, we took the boys to see the parade. We got a bit wet, but I think they liked all the hoop-la. They babbled and pointed and clapped and danced...Here they are waiting for the parade to begin:
And a small clip of the action:

And the highly anticipated Three Kings, Melchor, Gaspar, and Balthasar:

After the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, and before an early night in bed, children leave out their shoes in a spot where the Kings are sure to see them, they also leave sweets and possibly a glass of wine or sherry to entice the Kings. Many shops and stores are open most of the night, many until 3am, so the "Three Kings" can finish their shopping.

On the morning of the Epiphany, January 6, children awake to find the kings have eaten their sweets, and left gifts by their shoes. This is the day the Magi arrived in Bethlehem, and, for Spanish children, is the most important day of the year. Santa (Papa Noel) is not the central figure here as in the States and Christmas is more of a family-time holiday than the commercial holiday it has become in the US.

Anyhow, Melchor, Gaspar, and Balthasar traveled by night to bring gifts to Jesus in Bethlehem. Melchor was an old man with a white beard. His gift to Jesus was gold, representing his royalty. Gaspar was a swarthy skinned young man, and his gift was incense, representing Jesus' divinity. Baltasar, a black and/or Moorish man, brought Jesus myrrh, representing his suffering and future death.

While the children love all the kings, they are said to especially like Baltasar who rides a donkey and is the one believed to leave them the gifts. Throughout the day on the 6th, the Three Kings continue their good work and are seen distributing gifts to children in hospitals all over Spain.

As I mentioned above, the boys seemed to enjoy themselves AND we still got them back home not too much past their bed time. Thankfully, they are too young to leave out their shoes and look for gifts in the morning... So, Jaime and I will be checking out the "after Reyes" sales to see if there are any good bargains...these are akin to the after Christmas sales in the States.

This is the "official" end of the Christmas season here in Spain. Next up: Carnival near the end of February!!!

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