As families across the world revel in the joy of the holiday season and prepare for the festivities on 25 December, in Spain there’s another very special day that adults and children alike are eagerly anticipating…
For the Spanish city, the holiday season is centred not around the traditional Christmas Day activities but on the Day of the Kings (El Día de los Reyes) that falls on the 6th January. This day marks the time when the Three Holy Kings – otherwise known as the Three Wise Men – brought the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Also known as the Epiphany, this is when the Christmas period come to a joyful and vibrant climax in true Spanish style with noise, celebrations and colour in abundance.
The Three Kings Parade in Valencia is held on the night of the 5th January, offering a heroes’ welcome to the Three Kings and a glorious introduction to the national holiday the following day. Celebrations will be taking place across Spain and the city of Valencia has its own claim to fame - the celebrations will be just as dazzling! The streets will be lined with decorations to celebrate the arrival of the Kings, decked out in glorious regal robes, who will arrive by boat to the Valencia harbour and will disembark there to visit Valencia’s children and give them sweets and gifts. The Three Kings will pass by different streets from the harbour till the city centre, they will stop at the City Council in order to meet with disadvantaged children and give them their presents in hand.
After the Kings have greeted their people in a flurry of warmth and colour, it’s time for the procession to begin. The route will start outside the city’s Yacht Club and wind its way through to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento – the square in front of the town hall. The float carrying the three kings will play centre stage amongst an array of beautifully adorned floats and ornate carriages, carrying costumed folk who throw sweets and small gifts from the floats into the outstretched hands of the crowd. The parade will make its way leisurely around the city to welcome the crowds that come to line the streets and after the main procession is over, the kings will make their way to select parts of the city to hand out gifts to some very lucky children.
Many children in Spain do not receive their Christmas presents until the 6 January, in keeping with tradition, so the caramelos handed out are like a sneak peek of the presents yet to come. And when it’s time to go to sleep, the children polish their shoes and leave them out in preparation for the kings’ arrival – and the next morning they will be rewarded with presents left under their shoes for them to find. Hopefully, they’ll be fit for a king.