Christmas Holiday in Spain
The Christmas season is a beautiful time to visit Spain. The streets are decorated with Christmas lights, nativity scenes and there are many craft and holiday markets where you can buy gifts andsavory treats.
Christmas Eve in Spain is a family event traditionally celebrated with a special dinner and the exchange of gifts. Most Spanish households don’t honor the Santa tradition and some do not exchange any gifts on Christmas morning. The Christmas holiday is most celebrated on January 6th for Three Kings Day and the arrival of “Los Reyes Magos” and for what is known in the US as the Epiphany. Three Kings Day takes place on the 12th day after Christmas to celebrate when the Three Kings, also known as the wise men or Magi arrived from the Orient bearing gifts for the newly born baby Jesus whom they recognized as the son of God. It is believed that the kings followed the light from the star of Bethlehem until they arrived to the manger where the Virgin Mary gave birth.
The festivities for Three King’s Day start on the evening of January 5th with just about every town throughout Spain hosting a festive parade or “Cabalgata” that children attend in hopes of seeing the Three Kings in person. The parade includes huge floats, carriages, holiday music and lots of excitement. History tells that the three kings, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar, arrived on camel but here in the parade they frequently arrive on carriages or horses, waving to all and tossing candy into the crowd. Everyone has a ball jumping and reaching for the candies.
Families return home from the parade and each family member traditionally leaves out their shoes so that the kings can identify where to leave each persons gifts. It is believed that during that same night, the kings will arrive by camel and leave presents alongside ones shoes. Some leave out a snack of cookies and milk (or a bit of wine) for the kings and carrots for the camels.
On the morning of the 6th, everyone excitedly awakes to see what presents the kings have left for them next to their shoes and the children look to see if the kings and the camels have had a bite of their snack. For breakfast, it is tradition to eat a “Roscon de Reyes”, a round pastry that has a hole in the middle. This sweet bread-like pastry is laced with candied fruit and topped with a sprinkle of crystallized sugar. Hidden inside the cake is a small figurine or toy and also a dried fava bean. It is said that the person that finds the figurine will be blessed with good luck and the one that finds the bean will not only have bad luck, but is responsible for paying for the roscón. A tasty recipe for roscón de reyes can be viewed here.
The festivities, the food, the excitement of Christmas and Three King’s Day make it a magical time of year in Spain.