In Spain, ‘El Día de los Reyes Magos’ (Three Kings’ Day, 6th January) is far more important and exciting than Christmas Day. Here’s how to celebrate it like a true Spaniard. ¡Felices Reyes!
What is ‘El Día de los Reyes Magos’ (Three Kings’ Day)?
Most of us celebrate Christmas Day and receive gifts from Santa on Christmas morning. In Spain, however, they take public holidays far more seriously and stretch the festive season out to celebrate the full 12 days of Christmas.
January 6th, the twelfth day of Christmas (aka Epiphany), is the big day when children receive their gifts.
Santa who? In Spanish tradition the gifts are delivered by the Three Wise Men (or Three Kings) – Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – instead of Santa. And forget about Rudolf! On the night of January 5th kids in Spain leave out food and drink for the Three Kings and their trusty camels.
How to Celebrate ‘El Día de los Reyes Magos’ (Three Kings’ Day) in Spain
1. Go to a Three Kings Parade (Cabalgata de Reyes) ~ Evening of January 5th
On 5 January, the eve of El Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day), most Spanish cities hold a parade where you can see the Three Kings, as well as their camels and posse of all singing and dancing little helpers, lighting up the streets.
Sweets, sweets, sweets! Keep your eyes peeled for the sweets (caramelos in Spanish) that are thrown (sometimes a little too eagerly) from the floats. Keep your eyes peeled for the groups of kids with buckets – give them a wave and a smile and they’ll throw a few fistfuls in your direction.
Top Tip: Don’t forget your brolly! You’ll notice some of the more prepared parents and children carry umbrellas. Once opened and held skywards and upside down, they make for the perfect sweet catcher.
When is Barcelona’s Three Kings’ Day Parade?
Barcelona’s Three Kings’ Parade (Cabalgata de Reyes) will arrive by boat at the city’s port Moll de la Fusta at 4.30pm, with the full procession starting at 6pm at Avenida del Marquès de l’Argentera, before snaking through the city its way through the city centre and coming to an end at 9.30pm at the magic fountain of Montjuïc.
2. Eat a Traditional Roscón de Reyes Cake (Ideally for Breakfast)
When? Morning of January 6th
The best thing about celebrating Spain’s Three Kings’ Day is eating the puffy ‘Roscón de Reyes’ brioche cakes. They’re piped with sweet marzipan and cream and topped with candied fruits that represent the glistening medallions worn by the Three Kings.
Surprise, surprise! Hidden inside each ‘Roscón de Reyes’ is a tiny figurine of the baby Jesus, as well as a dry fava bean. Whoever finds the the baby Jesus is crowned king or queen for the day and whoever finds the fava bean must buy the Roscón the following year.
Where to buy and eat the best Roscón de Reyes in Barcelona
During the Christmas season, and especially in the days leading up to the January 6th, pretty much all of Barcelona’s supermarkets and bakeries offer Roscón. Do a bit of window shopping until you see one you fancy, or for an extra special Roscón try one of the following options:
El Corte Inglés ~ For 2017’s celebrations, the famous Spanish department store chain has hidden bars of real gold in 251 of the their Roscón cakes!
Pasteleria Hofman ~ A much lauded bakery (and restaurant) near the awe-inspiring Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral just off Paseo del Born.
Escribà ~ One of Barcelona’s most iconic bakeries, chief baker Christian Escribà says he sells around 3,000 roscóns a day during the Christmas season. He must be doing something right!