05 January 2011

La Cabalgata de los Reyes

Tonight Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar will parade through the streets of Alcalá dispensing sweets by the sack-load to the children.  The Three Wise Men, los Reyes Magos, come here not on camels but on the backs of elaborately decorated lorries, preceded by the gloriously raucous Alcalá silver band.  Having filled their pockets (and occasionally carrier bags) with sticky caramelos the children, who have already written out their requirements and posted them by special delivery, will go to bed early.  They will leave their shoes out by the door, often accompanied by some carrots for Balthazar´s donkey, and await the return of the Magi during the night (without the band this time).  Good children will find their shoes full of presents next morning; bad ones will find a piece of coal.

Tomorrow, 6 January, is the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men supposedly discovered Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem and presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  In Spain it is traditionally celebrated with a large round cake known as a Roscón de Reyes, containing a small figurine of the baby Jesus, and a dried bean. The person who gets the figurine is crowned, but whoever gets the bean has to pay the value of the cake to the person who originally bought it.

And that brings the seasonal festivities to a close.  Normally the kids would go back to school on the 7th, but this year it falls on a Friday so they won´t go back till Monday.  Time to eat a few more kilos of cake, sweets and pastries ....

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