16.01.2013 12 °C
When the decorations are boxed up again and the January blues well and truly kicked in in many countries, festivities are still in full swing across Spain, with the highlight of the season still to come – the Feast of the Kings, or Los reyes magos, to many, more important than Christmas Day and traditionally the time for exchanging presents. The eve of the 5th of January for Spanish children must be the most anticipated time of the whole year, where a magical parade of drama and spectacle, vivacious colours, and booming characters bring to life a century’s old tale in true flamboyant style. The spellbinding arrival of the gift-baring Three Kings to their town, accompanied by a dazzling entourage sometimes a thousand strong, must be overwhelmingly exciting for them, and provides a glittering and extravagant finale to the Christmas period.
A buzz of activity hums through the air all day long in preparation for the evening’s festivities, and excitement bubbles away reaching boiling point at around 6pm. Friends and families great and small choose their place wisely as they line the streets to await the theatrical parade of the Kings, the children’s fizzing enthusiasm and intrigue by now uncontrollable. Suddenly, the faint murmur of a drum is heard in the distance harmonising with rumours that they are finally on their way. Gradually the beat grows stronger, slowly developing into a grandiose, regal rhythm, announcing that royalty is indeed approaching. Trumpets galore break into a flourishing fanfare, and from around the corner appear the forerunners to the kings’ infinite party.
Richly robed choruses file by at a triumphant pace, the endless members acting out well their royal duties. Colourful messengers carry the Christmas letters written by the children of the town. Horse riders try their best to look majestic whilst controlling their vessels amidst the crowds of people. Brass bands, wind bands, and troupes of drummers keep the momentum going and rouse the festive spirit of all around. Flag bearers tell us of the exotic origins of the kings and flame jugglers delight and warm us as they pass by.
Soon the streets explode into a roar of excitement – the Kings are here! The hoards fervently cheer and applaud as the lively, glittering carriages approach, a true show on wheels. Their royal highnesses, Balthasar, Melchrior and Gaspar, wave to their fans like superstars showered in glory, embracing the emotion of their subjects with joyous, festive outcries. The locals go wild as the Kings hurl sweets into the air, stretching their finger tips up high to catch some or scrambling to the ground to scoop up any that escape them. Filling your pockets with as many as possible is a must. Some even go as far as hanging upside down umbrellas over their balconies for maximum sweet-catching potential.
Los reyes magos is a truly magical evening where the whole town seem to come together to celebrate what for them is perhaps the most important part of Christmas. The awe-inspired look on children’s faces as the Kings float past is enough alone to create a wonderful atmosphere. But, the whole thing really is great fun for adults too, letting out the child in all of us. If there’s one thing Spain knows how to do well, it’s celebrate!