While some Spanish families have also embraced the Santa tradition in recent years, it’s los reyes magos who are the most important. Read on to learn more about this beloved Spanish holiday tradition!
The Dia de Los Reyes is an important festival in Spain. Celebrated on the 6th of January, it is of course a festival marking the three kings that brought gifts to the baby Jesus. The day is even more important in Spanish culture than Christmas, especially for children; as it is on the Dia de los Reyes that presents are exchanged in Spain.
On the evening of January 5th every year, Spanish towns and cities are given over to the colourful parades of the Dia de los Reyes, or the Kings’ Day – a celebration of the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth.
Mechanised floats bearing effigies of Melchior (Arabia), Caspar (the Orient) and Balthazar (Africa) – or real-life versions of the wise men played by members of the local council – and various other brightly-costumed participants trundle down major streets; as they pass, they throw out handfuls of sweets that rain down on the spectators gathered to watch their grand entry into the town.
The celebrations continue well into the evening; although many children go to bed early – looking forward to the presents that they will receive in the morning. Many neighbourhoods will have large street markets and parties that extend into the early hours with live music providing the entertainment.
The following day, El Dia de los Reyes is a quieter occasion, with people meeting up with their families to exchange presents.
The Day of the Kings is celebrated in many countries around the world; however, in very few countries is it such an important day as it is in Spain.
Roscón de Reyes: the Three Kings Day cake
The crown jewel of the los reyes magos celebration is exactly that: a crown-shaped dessert decorated with candy “jewels”. This is the roscón de reyes, a sweet bread-like cake often filled with cream and topped with dried fruits.
Some families dig into theirs as soon as they get home from the Three Kings Day parade on January 5. Others have it for breakfast on the morning of the 6th, and still, others hold off until afternoon on Three Kings Day to have it for merienda, or the midday snack around 6 p.m.
Roscones can come in several different varieties, all of them delicious. Some are plain and come without any filling. Others contain fresh whipped cream or chocolate truffle cream
In addition, you’ll find two plastic-wrapped figurines inside the roscón: a dried fava bean and a small king-shaped figurine.
- Whoever gets the slice of the cake with the small king is the “king” or “queen” of the banquet. As a result, this person will have good luck for the rest of the year. Many roscones come with a paper or cardboard crown for this person to wear.
- On the other hand, whoever finds the fava bean has to pay for the roscón the next year!