THREE KINGS DAY IN SPAIN 2024
EL DÍA DE REYES: CELEBRATE THIS UNIQUE CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL IN SPAIN
With December around the corner, the UK is preparing to celebrate Christmas. In Spain, Christmas Day is important, but perhaps even more important is el Día de Reyes, celebrated annually on 6th January. The 12th night after Christmas, Three Kings Day (or, as it is known in the UK, Epiphany) is celebrated across the Spanish-speaking world to honour the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
On 5th – 6th January, Spanish people celebrate el Día de Reyes with colourful costumes, vibrant street parades and a special round cake …with a hidden surprise! On the evening of 5th January, floats pass through streets carrying effigies of the Three Kings or, in some areas, actors dress up in extravagant costumes taking on the role of ‘los Reyes’. As the parade passes, the crowd is often showered with sweets. That night, children put out a shoe, into which gifts are left by the Three Kings, similar to Father Christmas traditions across the world. On 6th January, presents are unwrapped, and families join to enjoy the Roscón de Reyes, a traditional and brightly decorated cake containing a tiny king or queen figure: the lucky diner who finds a statue in their slice then receives special attention throughout the day. Some cakes also include a fava bean, with the unlucky finder having to pay for the cake!
Across Spain, cities, towns and villages come together to participate in the festival, and visitors to Spain during January are warmly welcomed to join in. Here are six of the best parades on 5th January.
It’s no surprise that the Spanish capital’s el Día de Reyes parade is spectacular: the Three Kings parade on decorated floats for 2.5 hours through the streets of Madrid, surrounded by dancers, acrobats and musicians. The parade ends with a traditional speech of well-wishing from ‘los Reyes’ before a magnificent fireworks spectacle lights up the city at Plaza de Cibeles. Visit here for more information.
ALCOY, ALICANTE, COMUNITAT VALENCIANA
The oldest parade in Spain, Alcoy’s celebration has been held since 1885 and, in November 2001, it was declared a Festival of National Interest. This charming festival starts on the Sunday before 6th January with a parade of children dressed as shepherds, known as ‘les Pastoretes’. On the following days, the town prepares for the main parade: on 4th January, a messenger announces the Kings’ upcoming arrival, and the town is lit up with watch fires on the hill of Sant Cristòfol. On 5th January, the main parade takes place, with actors dressed as the Kings parading through the town. Visit here for more information.
Catalonia is known for doing things differently, and Barcelona’s Día de los Reyes celebrations are no exception. La Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos – the Three Kings Parade – starts by boat, with the Kings arriving on the Santa Eulàlia schooner before being greeted by the mayor. From there, the Kings process through Barcelona’s streets on extravagant floats, with helpers throwing out sweets and treats to the eager crowd. Visit here for more information.
One of Spain’s largest parades, the Málaga parade can contain up to 20,000 kg of sweets, distributed throughout the parade by the Three Kings and their helpers. Around 14 floats process through the streets; in 2024, the Kings themselves will spend the previous night at the Alcazaba Fortress, previously a royal residence. The parade comes to a close with the Kings making an offering to the Nativity at the doors of Málaga Cathedral. Visit here for more information.
The Three Kings Parade in Andalucía’s historic capital, Seville, is one of the longest, and liveliest, throughout Spain. On their six-hour-long journey, the Three Kings are surrounded by carriages, floats, musicians and crowds, all extravagantly decorated to create an astounding spectacle. Visitors to this spectacle need stamina, as its length and excitement makes for a long party! Visit here for more information.
MALLORCA, THE BALEARIC ISLANDS
Residents and visitors on Spain’s islands do not miss out from the fun, with Mallorca’s celebration being a particularly special affair. Parades take place throughout the island, filling Mallorca with a carnival atmosphere that is infectiously exciting. Palma, the capital city of the island, has the largest celebrations, with one parade at the port area of S’Arenal consisting of tractors carrying the Kings along the coast. Christmas markets across Mallorca are also open during the lead-up to el Día de Reyes, with gifts for the occasion being just as, if not more, important as at Christmas. Visit here for more information.
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