Los Reyes Magos : The Spanish Holiday Tradition

In Spain, Santa Claus isn’t the star of the show when the holiday season rolls around.

Instead, it’s the Three Wise Men—or los reyes magos—who take center stage during the winter holidays. They’re the ones who bring Spanish children their gifts the night before Three Kings Day in January.

While some Spanish families have also embraced the Santa tradition in recent years, it’s los reyes magos who are the most important. Read on to learn more about this beloved Spanish holiday tradition!

Schedule of the Parade in Fuerteventura

Who are “los reyes magos”?

According to Christian tradition, three wise men came to visit the newborn baby Jesus shortly after his birth. Their names were Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, and they came with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Three Wise Men have been honored in various European countries since the Middle Ages. When the tradition of Santa Claus bringing gifts to children on Christmas Day became popular in some countries centuries ago, Spain followed suit, but used los reyes magos as the gift-bringers instead.

In recent years, some Spanish families have begun to embrace the Santa tradition as well. As a result, some children get gifts on both December 25 and January 6. However, Three Kings Day is easily the more important of the two, and the day when just about everyone in Spain will be in the gift-giving spirit.

 Celebrating Three Kings Day in Spain today

 January 5: The Three Kings Day parade

Festivities officially start the day before the actual feast day of los reyes magos. On January 5, parades take place throughout the country to celebrate the arrival of the kings. Spanish families line the streets of their hometown to get a glimpse of the cabalgata de los reyes magos, or Three Kings Day parade.

These parades are truly a sight to behold! Along with dancers, musicians, and puppeteers, the Kings ride on camels or elaborate floats. They throw goodies, usually candy or sweets, down to the children. Some adults even get in on the fun and will hold upside-down umbrellas to catch as much candy as possible!

January 6: The arrival of los reyes magos

Los reyes magos traditionally bring gifts for Spanish children during the night on January 5. Much like the traditional milk and cookies for Santa Claus and his reindeer, Spanish children often set out plates of food or sweets for los reyes magos. The kings’ camels also receive dried grass or hay from the traditionalists, or milk and bread if those aren’t handy!

 

When kids throughout Spain wake up on the morning of the 6th, they find gifts from the Three Kings ready to open. (But only if they’ve been good—just like Santa Claus, los reyes magos bring coal for those on the naughty list

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