6 JANUARY; the day of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar

On January 6, Spanish children celebrate Los Reyes Magos, the day when all children are showered with presents and all Spaniards have a day off.

Los Reyes Magos, or Three Wise Men, are Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. It is them who bring presents to all Spanish children who have behaved well. There is a whole process that children have to go through to get presents.

The letter

First of all, the children have to write a letter to the Three Wise Men telling them what presents to bring them and why they think they deserve presents in the first place. The completion of the letter is followed by the giving of the letter. The children can personally hand over the letter to the Three Wise Men when they “officially” arrive on 5 January.

Another way to get your letter to the Reyes is to look for the emissaries and royal postmen in the center of Spanish cities a few days before the kings arrive and deliver the letter to them. The children are then asked if they have been good at school and at home, because naughty children get black coal instead of presents. That is not really a punishment, because the coal is made of sugar.

The parades on January 5th

When the long-awaited day finally arrives, the whole family takes to the streets to welcome the men during the Cabalgata de Reyes. They arrive in a traditional procession, riding through the streets on their camels, laden with presents and accompanied by royal helpers who throw sweets at the children. One by one, the beautiful floats, decorated with bright colors and inspired by popular characters that the children know, pass by.

Parades take place in almost all Spanish towns and cities. Each has its own specific style depending on where you are. In Barcelona, the Three Wise Men arrive from the sea, followed by a spectacular parade of elephants and camels, while in the village of Alarilla in Guadalajara, for example, the Three Wise Men land by hang glider and paraglider. The various parades can also be followed on television.

The evening before January 6

After watching the parades, the children go to bed early to wait for Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar to come in through the window to leave presents in their shoes. Children put water and bread on the windowsill so that the camels can eat and drink while the Three Wise Men do their job.

After the children unwrap their presents on the morning of January 6, most of them immediately take to the streets to show off and play with their presents.

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