While the world sleeps, the Three Wise Men (los Reyes Magos) arrive in Spain. Spain is a country with a lot of culture and unique traditions. Many of these traditions come from times we have already forgotten, but they are still part of the culture of Spain.

Many people say that Spain is different and at least when it comes to dates and traditions, this is often true. Just as with Holy Innocent’s Day (el día de los Santos Inocentes), Spain has its own dates and traditions for Christmas presents, although it shares them with other countries in Latin America.

Thus, in Spain, it is not Father Christmas (Papá Noel) who brings the presents, but the Three Wise Men from the East. This tradition is not exclusive to Spain; in other countries such as Argentina, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Paraguay, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, the Three Wise Men are also celebrated, but with some differences.

The festivity of the Magi, which is celebrated on the night of 5-6 January, has its origins in biblical texts, specifically in the Gospel of Matthew. These texts describe the visit of three Magi to the birth of the son of God. The name of the Three Kings was later attributed to them and that is why they are known as the Three Wise Men.

These Magi brought Jesus gifts of gold to represent power, incense, which was used as an offering to the gods, and myrrh, which represented spirituality and life after death. Within the tradition, in addition to these gifts, the Christmas story tells how the three Magi were guided by the star of Bethlehem. A star that shone so brightly in the sky that it guided them to the place where the baby Jesus was born.

Lastly, we have to understand the names of these, such as Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar, coming from the original names of Melichior, Gathaspa and Bithisarea. These Magi were transformed by popular culture into Kings of Persia, India and Arabia respectively. Although the Western tradition, ratified by Pope Leo I, recognises three Magi, in the East they are considered to be twelve in total. Historical questions aside, what is important are the traditions and the excitement with which this important day is celebrated by children and adults and the events that are held in conjunction with this festivity.

In many places of Spain, events of all kinds and gastronomic traditions are celebrated alongside the Three Wise Men, the most widespread and common are:

The Roscón de Reyes: This is a round-shaped cake, filled with cream and covered with candied fruit. You are sure to see it in all bakeries and pastry shops. Inside it hides a figure of a wise man and a bean. According to the tradition of each town in Spain, whoever gets the Wise Man becomes king for a day and everyone must pay homage to him and do what he/she asks for. If you get the bean, then you have to pay for the roscón.
La Cabalgata de Reyes (The Three Kings Parade): This is another of the Spanish traditions related to Three Kings Day. It is a parade of floats in which the people on the floats throw sweets, candies and some toys to the children who come to see them. In addition to this, the Three Wise Men ride on the most sumptuous floats to remind the children to be good and go home early. Alongside the floats of the Three Wise Men are the pages, who collect the letters from the children who were late in sending them. If you live in Valencia, don’t miss the Three Kings Parade!
The Letter: As with Father Christmas, in many countries a letter is also written to ask the Three Wise Men for presents. It is common for children to write this letter at school on the last days of school and give it to their parents so that they can pass it on to the Three Wise Men.
Food for the Camels and the Three Kings: Among the traditions, which vary from country to country, food is given to the camels and the Three Kings. In Spain they are given a plate with milk and nougat and in Latin America it is cut grass inside a shoebox. All this so that both the camels and the Three Wise Men can have a snack after a long night of handing out presents.

Now you know more about the magical night of the Three Wise Men, so don’t forget to leave your shoes, food for the camels and something sweet for the Three Wise Men on the balcony. And if you want to continue doing activities in Valencia, don’t forget to check out our section on the Activities in Valencia website.