Los Reyes Magos at (or near to) Perleta Magic. Festivals or fiesta of the Three Kings series of fiestas is a lot different to the festive celebrations at Christmas and New Year that we had been used to. It is otherwise known as Los Reyes Magos or the Epiphany, remembering the day when the Three Wise Men (or Three Kings) following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
But first, let’s start with Santa Claus – everyone knows what Santa Claus represents. He is a important, plump, jolly figure dressed in a red suit, and has a white beard. He, in many cultures of the West, takes gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve.
Legend has it that Santa lives in the North Pole, and every Christmas, children all over the world who believe in him write copious letters to ask for gifts from Santa. With a list of children throughout the world he categorizes them according to their behaviour and based on that he delivers presents, including toys, candy, etc. via a reindeer-drawn sleigh that defies gravity and air-traffic control radar... (military also turn a blind eye).
In the Spanish tradition, Los Reyes Magos, also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men, (Three) Kings, or Kings from the East, are a group of distinguished foreigners who are said to have visited Jesus just after his birth, travelling great distances on camels and bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. They are regular figures in traditional celebrations of Christmas and nativity scenes.
The Spanish do exchange some gifts on the 25th December, but generally they wait for the festival of the Three Kings to exchange the bulk of presents. So, the kids have two opportunities for receiving presents(!). However, the idea of having Christmas Day then waiting two weeks for a present sounds like a bit of a stretch for children who are used to getting *everything* on the 25th of December: hilarity and/or mayhem ensues.
The typical collborative-party style of the Spanish is that the Three Kings fiesta is a reason for an all-inclusive celebration, so the city burghers tend to take the collective 'fiesta' style approach:
4th January: Arrival of The Messengers (of The Three Kings).
The first day of the Three Kings fiesta celebrations, 4th January, is sort of the preamble, a prelude of proceedings for main event the following day. Parking at the marina in Alicante, and with a few minutes to spare, we were at the start of the procession.
It was a little parade of the Royal Messengers of the Three Kings; trumpets sounding, messengers on horseback, bands playing, minstrels, and the 12 foot high mannequins tottering along, each powered by a single person, all valiantly struggling to do some sort of dance routine… and lastly, the “correos” – postmen on matching yellow mopeds: possibly a modern take on the theme, bringing the message of the arrival of the Three Kings. Such a cute tradition.
On leaving and walking back to the car, we happened by a square with a huge fountains, and some sort of a dais setup at the end of the cordoned-off road.
It was a temporary stage, used to house the Three Kings and their ornate dais-seats. There were lots of tiny-tots, waiting in line, to receives their gifts from one of Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar, the Three Kings, who were seated on the stage; one red-bearded, white-bearded, and a black King. There was a marquee to wrap up the presents first – where the parents of the children take advantage of, before adjourning to the stage – a sweet thought.
5th January: Arrival of The Three Kings
The next day, we were slightly early, as we were walking to the start of the cavalcade, we noticed a large aquarium in a square, in downtown Alicante. As we neared it, it was a nativity scene floating in an amphora, in the aquarium? Unusual, yet a novel idea.
Not colourful sprats, but monsters; bream, groupers, .. huge fish! And, many children were instantly drawn to it. No time for much gazing around, the parade marching bands were sounding much closer; time for a move-on to a good spot, amongst thousands of spectators.
We searched for a spot, and quickly continued up the street following other visitors who were late. Because of our tardiness, we were about 5 or 6th person-depth from the edge of the street. The first 3 rows had seats, then standing room behind them. We managed to find a vacant slot and had a good view of the proceedings, which was fortunate as the colour and spectacle of the whole parade was quite amazing.
Sweets and chocolate were rained on everybody: confetti and bubble-rings, gifts from various manufacturers, bootees and gloves, ear-muffs, tonka toys, footballs, t-shirts, plastic swords and spades and buckets. The Three King's fiestas' manna raining from the sky!
I thought that the umbrellas were used for keeping the rain off oneself (…it was a fine, a warmish night… wasn’t it?). But, there was another more delightfully shrewd use for them too. Open them, turn them upside down, and you get… a huge, all-mighty scoop.
Now, it’s just a waiting game for the next float to drop-in and shower gifts on all. It was just fun personified. The children (and parents!) were gleefully eyeing the brightly-lit floats and the next…
.. and mad scramble to get a gift(s) – made me think of Hamburgers, raining from heaven, the new film. Maybe I’ll invest in an umbrella for next years’ Three Kings parade – hmm, worth thinking about? Fabulous fireworks with an explosion, jarring the bones of the body, ended this parade… till next year!