Los Reyes Magos: The spanish christmas tradition

While in many countries, the holiday season is over in December, in Spain, our festive spirit is still in full swing! 🎉 Beyond the traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations, both children and adults hold onto the magic of the most special day of the Christmas Season: the Three Kings Day or “Los Reyes Magos” in Spanish.

In Spain, the joy of Christmas extends well into the new year, culminating in the enchanting Three Kings’ celebration. This magical tradition holds a special place in our hearts, as it beautifully intertwines religious significance with the magic of childhood dreams and memories.

What is Los Reyes Magos?

Christian tradition says that the Three Wise Men went to the Bethlehem portal following a star that showed them the way to see the Child Jesus, who had just been born. Upon arrival, Los Reyes Magos (Melchior, Gaspar and Baltasar) offered him three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Following the meaning of this tradition, every year, children from all over Spain write their letters to the Three kings explaining how good they have been and listing the gifts that they wish to receive. However, will the naughty ones receive their presents?

When is Los Reyes Magos celebrated?

On the evening of January the 5th the Three Wise Men originally travel by camel from the East to Betlehem to offer their gifts to baby Jesus. Nowadays, each city / town in Spain will hold a big parade to welcome Los Reyes Magos. Depending on the city Los Reyes Magos will arrive by horse, car, boat or even by helicopter!

During the parade each king (Melchior, Gaspar and Baltasar) will be accompanied by their own pages and their own truck with hundreds of presents in them.

To see the excitement on the children’s face when they see The Three Kings for the first time is priceless!

Once the parade is over, children run home to prepare some water, milk and food for Los Reyes Magos and their camels or horses to regain strength after such a long journey from the East.

How is Día de Los Reyes Magos celebrated?

The morning of January 6th, children of each house get up nervous and earlier than usual to discover what gifts Their Majesties the Kings have given them the night before. However, the naughty ones will also receive a piece of coal (this works as a warning to behave better in the next year).

The day follows with a family meal that concludes with a special desert called “roscón de reyes”. It is a round or oval-shaped sweet bread, often adorned with candied fruits and a dusting of powdered sugar.

What makes this pastry particularly special is that it often conceals a surprise inside—a small figurine (usually representing one of the Three Kings) and a dry bean. The person who finds the bean is asked to pay for the roscón. Again a fun festive way to end this amazing tradition!

El Roscón de Reyes
El Roscón de Reyes

Interesting fact: Where is Los Reyes Magos celebrated?

Whereas I am focusing on how it is celebrated in my home country, Spain, the Three Kings Day is also celebrated in other locations around the globe:

  1. Mexico: Known as “Día de Reyes,” it is a significant holiday with various customs, including the sharing of the Rosca de Reyes (a sweet bread).
  2. Puerto Rico: The day is marked by parades, parties, and the traditional sharing of gifts.
  3. Dominican Republic: Celebrated with religious services, parades, and the sharing of special meals.
  4. Argentina: Families often gather for festive meals, and children receive gifts from the Three Kings.
  5. Cuba: While not an official public holiday, some Cuban communities celebrate Three Kings’ Day with events and traditions.
  6. Venezuela: The day is marked by religious observances, as well as festive activities and the sharing of gifts.
  7. Colombia: Celebrations include parades, parties, and the exchange of gifts among family and friends.
  8. France: Particularly in regions like Provence, there are traditions associated with Epiphany, including the sharing of the “Galette des Rois,” a puff pastry with a hidden figurine.
  9. Germany: Known as “Dreikönigstag,” it is celebrated with special church services and customs in various regions.

Pssst! Feeling Christmassy? Have a look at the best Christmas movies to practice Spanish!

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