For many of us, the 6th of January is just a day like any other. Marked only by the taking down of the Christmas tree and re tangling of the Christmas lights for next holiday season. But in Spain on this day, the decorations still twinkle and carols still play, as families get ready for the last big date on their Christmas calendar: Three Kings Day.
With the holiday hot on our heals, we give you a crash course on Three Kings Day in Madrid. What you should know, and what you can’t possibly miss.
Three Very Special Guests
Three Kings Day (or Día de los Reyes Magos as it’s known in Spanish) marks adoration of the baby Jesus by three kings: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, from Europe, Arabia, and Africa. According to tradition, these three rulers followed a star for 12 days until they came to Bethlehem. Bringing with them gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myhrr, to recognise Jesus’ role as a king, a preacher, and a martyr.
The 6th of January may have lost its meaning in many parts of the world. But in Spain and Latin America, the three kings just kept coming! Sometimes referred to as ‘Spain’s Second Christmas’, on the eve of this day children across the country line up their shoes by the door, waiting for when the noble trio come their way. This time not with incense and precious metals, but with presents!
Cabalgata: A Three Kings Day Must See
If there’s one thing that can be said for royalty, its that they sure like to make an entrance. And in no way is Three Kings Day an exception. On the eve of the celebrations, the 5th of January, Madrid sees one of its biggest parades of the year. Featuring more than 1500 people, this year’s Cabalgata will start at Plaza de San Juan de la Cruz at 18:30, and follow Paseo de la Castellana down to Plaza de Cibeles, where a large stage will hold the closing festivities. The spectacle will include areal acrobatics, giant puppets, and eye-popping floats. Better still, participants will throw sweets out to the crowd as they past, so come with your hand-eye coordination in check!
Moreover for the first time, this year the 5th of January will be marked by not 1 but 17 parades, as 14 city districts will be setting up their own itineraries. These are: Barajas, Carabanchel, Chamartín, Ciudad Lineal, Fuencarral-El Pardo, Hortaleza, Latina, Moratalaz, Puente de Vallecas, San Blas-Canillejas, Usera, Vicálvaro, Villa de Vallecas, and Villaverde. Fuencarral-El Pardo and Villaverde will be holding two parades owing to their size. While Villa de Vallecas will also be opening a free ice rink.
Our tip: Bring an upside-down umbrella to maximise your candy catching capacity. But make sure you’re not blocking anyone’s view!
A Crown Fit for a King
Three Kings Day, like Christmas is not just about the wrapping paper. As with any good fiesta, there’s a special menu to mark the event. Locals typically share a Roscón de Reyes, or “King’s Bread”, a sweet dough bent into the shape of a crown, and embellished with candied fruits, sweets, and sugar. In some parts, a figure of the baby Jesus will be hidden somewhere in the mix. And the lucky muncher that finds him is crowned King or Queen of that year’s celebrations. When it comes to Roscones, our absolute favourites can be found at Fomentor, the best Majorcan bakery in the city.
To balance out the sweet, sit down to a traditional Three Kings Day feast. In Spain this means lots of seafood. Here are some of our personal favourites!