Today in Spain, children woke up to gifts (books, DVD’s, games, stuffed animals, etc) left for them by “Los Tres Reyes Magos:” Gaspar, Melchor and Balthazar (aka the three wise men or the three kings). Christians (including Catholics in Spain) believe that 3 foreign dignitaries came to visit Jesus after his birth 2000+ years ago from faraway lands, bearing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Different countries believe the kings came from different regions of the earth, however in Spain it is believed that King Melchor is a European, King Balthazar is from Africa, and King Gaspar is from Asia. The day before Epiphany (Epiphany is January 6th), children in Spain leave out their shoes and hope that the Reyes Magos visit them at night and leave them presents.
There are many street festivals and huge, lavish parades (known as cabalgatas) that families attend to see how the Reyes Magos arrive to Spain, and where children collect candy throw from the floats.
Although the traditions says they travel by camels, in some cities their mode of transport is more extravagant: in Barcelona, Palma and Valencia they come by boat, a helicopter brings them in Getafe, in San Sebastián they prefer public buses, in Málaga the Reyes Magos arrive by burro, and in the Sierra Nevada they ski down to the children. It is a fun, festive night, and an important day for children in Spain!
See all of our Christmas Around the World articles! So many amazing traditions from different cultures celebrating Christmas.