Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Happy Reyes (Epiphany in Spain)



For most people Christmas has already finished, but in Spain the holidays go on with the big event: Reyes on the 6th of January. This is when children originally got presents and it's still a very big celebration nowadays. Let me tell you a bit about it.
After the birth of Christ, which is celebrated on the 25th, other visitors came from different countries to bear him gifts of great symbolic wealth such as gold, myrrh and incense. It is not said how many came, whether they were kings or not and what they name were but with the years more imagined details were added to the tradition. 


Here in Spain it's a mostly Catholic country and they believe that Three Wise Men: Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar brought gifts to Jesus of Nazareth. They apparently followed a shooting star which led them to Bethlehem on their camels. Certain countries such as Spain, Dominican Republic, Colombia, celebrate this on the 6th and they don't even call it epiphany anymore, they call it "Reyes" (Kings).
Originally there wasn't a Father Christmas here and children only received gifts on the 6th of January. I still know many children who only get presents on that day. Most of them now receive presents on both dates as the programmes and films show the figure of Santa and children don't understand why they don't receive presents. 

On the 5th of January it's very common to have the "Cabalgata" which is a procession of the Three Wise Men down the streets. In smaller villages they go by horse, carriages pulled by oxen or even on tractors, but in the large cities they go in gigantic floats preceded by pages on horses, or sometimes they even go on camels!
I remember when I was younger being a page riding on one of the horses. It was so exciting! They also went to children's hospitals to give gifts to the sick. As they go past on the floats they throw lots of sweets and sometimes other things such as balloons, confetti and small gifts. 

Here I am with some friends waiting for the Three Wise Men to arrive! 


On the 6th of January in the morning the children can open the presents that the Three Wise Men have left them, and if they haven't behaved well that year they could be given coal (although it's usually the sweet sugary kind which I love). I remember when I was a child I would get very excited and I'd leave a bucket of water for the camels, and I swear it smelt of camel in my room in the morning!
They always left some small gifts on our slippers, usually books and clothes as we celebrated Christmas more than Reyes. On the day everyone has a large lunch followed by the "roscón de Reyes" which is a large ring-shaped sweet bun. Inside there is a hidden charm and a hidden bean! If your piece of cake has the charm you will be lucky that year and if you get the bean you have to pay for the cake!

I really love traditions and I really hope that Spain doesn't lose this lovely one. Now more and more children celebrate Christmas rather than Reyes and I think it's a real shame, although the advantage of getting Christmas presents is that the children get to play with them until the 8th of January when they go back to school!

Had you ever heard of this celebration?













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