Many Spaniards celebrate the Feast of the Three Wise Men — alright, 3 Kings, if you like — more than they do Christmas and New Year’s. It’s the Twelfth Night of Christmas! The Eve of the Epiphany. No Papa Noel in dear España. No Santa Claus entering homes through their chimneys. Rather, the Three Kings from the Orient are the bearer of gifts. And Spanish niños y niñas wait until January 6 for their aguinaldos. Even decors show the 3 kings climbing up Spanish balconies bringing presents. Sí, you can say the Spanish traditions take off from the Bible more literally and meaningfully than Western practices. Christmas is all about the Belén where the star is the Infant Jesus. New Year’s is all about the countdown and the eve’s dinner is called Noche Vieja (literally, old night) and it’s considered good luck to eat “doce uvas” or 12 grapes as one welcomes the New Year. And Christmas Season ends with the Feast of the Three Kings.




Meet Melchor.

Meet Caspar. Or

Meet Caspar. Or Gaspar.



Melchor, Caspar (or Gaspar) and Balthasar (or Baltazar). They’re the stars in this street parade in many major cities and towns all over España. I was fortunate to be in Madrid for the entire Christmas Season 2013-2014, and didn’t miss any of the festivities. But I agree with many Madrileños. The most festive and extravagant is the Cabalgata De Los Reyes Magos. There are many floats, marching bands, majorettes, horsemen, acrobats, cartoon characters, fireeaters, fairies, clowns, but you have to bring tons of patience waiting till the street parade reaches your spot.



Meet Balthasar. The last of 3 floats bearing the magi.

Meet Balthasar. The last of 3 floats bearing the magi.



The Cabalgata parade weaved its way from Nuevos Ministerios through Plaza Colon area, towards Plaza de Cibeles where we waited and claimed a spot when there was still light on this winter day. We waited through an early sunset,  hardly sensed twilight because of our excitement, joined a crowd of many locals who came ready with food baskets, toys to amuse their toddlers and young children through as long as 4 hours of waiting, blankets (yes!) and even ladders (si!). We prayed for good weather since it rained for 2 days prior, and we got it the whole day till mid-parade when it started to drizzle. But Madrileños came prepared. Raincoats out, umbrellas up. No one is losing his temper here. The anticipation is only matched by the fierce cold weather. I wrapped myself good, but still too cold for my shaking bones and freezing fingers.



This kid played, ate, and waited. Then she slept midway through the parade.

This kid played, ate, and waited. Then she slept midway through the parade.

The rains won't stop this street parade!

The rains won’t stop this street parade!



So much revelry. The fairies, the clowns threw away candies or dulcés to the crowd. Some costumed marchers broke away from the parade to say “Hola” to the delight of the kids and not so young. An acrobat gowned in white was tied to a bunch of balloons (and roped down to a bunch of “controlling men”) doing her stunts up in the air, sometimes just right over our heads until she soars high again, against the lovely backdrop of the Palacio de Cibeles.




The “up” lady in white.


Let the “up” lady soar high!



There were many floats outside of the carrozas ridden by the three kings. Obviously designed to grab young spectators’ interest, I also noticed how some floats incorporated environmental concerns for everyone’s wise consumption. Watching these carrozas pass us by, it is hard to think the Spanish economy is having a crisis. But it is certainly money well-spent. The sponsors who funded the floats certainly enjoyed media mileage, having been watched and appreciated by both young and old in the crowd. Locals, as well as visitors like me.




Environmental Management. Go GREEN.


Biggest babe tonight!



And lest I forget, those marching bands making beautiful, bouncy music while swinging and dancing with their instruments were really fun to watch. Same with the pageantry of seeing horsemen…. an entire cavalry joining the parade. The horses, and sí, those horsemen all looked good. You’ve got to hand it to the organizers for making this event so orderly, so organized, and most of all, SAFE. I heard about the tragedy that struck one Cabalgata in Malaga (where a kid ran to pick up some dulcés and was ran over by one of the floats) but the organizers certainly had these concerns in mind. The Policia, the Bomberos, even the street cleaners who manned the tail end of the street parade sweeping their way through were equally crowd drawers.







Thank you, Madrid, for this experience of watching this festivity and putting more meaning to this Feast of The Three Kings! He disfrutado mucho! Gracias, Madrid.