Santa Claus is possibly the most beloved character among children around the world, as it is thanks to him that the little ones in the family are able to open their gifts on Christmas morning. However, there are many different traditions involving other gift-giver iconic characters. In Christmas day, the Olentzero brings presents to children from the Basque Country or Navarra, and the Caga Tió ‘poops’ little presents and candy for Catalan children. In Italy, a witch called Befana brings presents for children on January 6th, and in Spain and Barcelona, that is a task for the Three Wise Men.
But who are the Three Wise Men? These characters have a religious origin, as they appear in the Bible. Also called the Three Kings or the Magi, they were three foreigners who visited Jesus right after he was born. The story of the Three Wise Men that children are told says that they found him by following the Northern Star, accompanied by three camels and their respective pages, and that each of them gave a present to the newborn baby: gold, myrrh and frankincense.
Kids know them as Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. Melchior is always represented as the oldest, and has a long, white beard. Caspar is the blond and youngest, and is represented with a yellow or a brown beard. And kid’s favourite is Balthazar, of African descent, young and dark-skinned. Every year, children write a letter to them, or to their favourite one, telling them what they would like to receive as a gift. If they have been good, the Three Wise Men will grant their wishes; if they haven’t, they will bring them coal instead!
As you can see, religious tradition meets children’s stories when it comes to this legend. Celebrating the Three Wise Men in Barcelona can be very special for the whole family. Besides adding yet another magical day to the holidays, and one that is special for kids, you get to extend the festive atmosphere until the 6th of January. In the following lines, we’ll walk you through all the wonderful traditions that the Three Wise Men bring to Barcelona!
The Three Wise Men in Barcelona: The Cabalgata
The day of the Three Wise Men is the 6th of January, but the celebration starts earlier: the 5th of January is as special as the following day, as they come say hello to all the children in their very own parade! The ‘Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos’, that is, the ‘Three Wise Men’s Parade’, will take place along the centre of Barcelona and will make the delights of all children who come visit. This year, the Cabalgata will start at 6pm in Avinguda Marquès de l’Argenteria, next to Parc de la Ciutadella, and will continue along Passeig d’Isabel II and Via Laietana, until Plaça d’Urquinaona, Catalunya, Universitat… And all the way until Plaça d’Espanya! It will end next to Montjuic’s Magic Fountain with a spectacle of music and lights at 9.30 pm, after crossing the whole city! The Three Wise Men and all their colourful entourage will be dancing and throwing candy from their carriages, so don’t forget to bring a bag!
The Three Wise Men in Barcelona: Preparing a midnight snack
Once the Cabalgata is over, it’s time to go back home and prepare your living room for the arrival of the Three Wise Men. You need to leave a platter of cookies and some anisette for the Kings, so they can gather strength with a midnight snack when they come leave the presents under the Christmas tree. And we mustn’t forget about the camels! They do a great effort during this special night as well, so we’ll leave a bucket of fresh water by the door and, why not, some carrots so they can grab a bite as well. Once all of this is done, children must go to bed early in case the Kings arrive… as they must not be seen! If children try to surprise them leaving the presents, they may not leave any!
The Three Wise Men in Barcelona: Opening the presents
The morning of the 6th of January is one of the happiest moments of the Christmas break! All the family gathers together to open the presents and find the candy that the Three Wise Men have left in the Christmas socks. If kids have behaved badly during the year, they will find a piece of coal… But usually the Three Wise Men are kind enough to leave candy coal, which is sweet and tasty. Most years, they will leave some presents and also some candy coal, as all kids have their good and their bad moments during the year. Then, kids will be able to spend all morning playing with their new toys!
The Three Wise Men in Barcelona: the roscón de Reyes, the sweetest tradition
The last thing to do when celebrating the Three Wise Men in Barcelona is sitting down for a big lunch with the whole family. But the most special thing about this lunch is the desert, called the roscón de Reyes. It’s a sweet donut-shaped cake filled with cream, marzipan or custard, and it hides two things. Whoever finds the King figurine will be declared the King or Queen of the day, and will wear a crown for the rest of the afternoon, and whoever finds the bean… Will have to pay for the roscón!
So, will you be celebrating the Three Wise Men in Barcelona? Do you have any special family tradition of your own? We’d love to read about it!