Los Reyes Magos: The Spanish Christmas Tradition

This blog post was originally posted on December 28, 2012 and was updated on November 9, 2017.

Christmas may have come and gone, but many kids here in Spain are still eagerly awaiting their presents. That’s because it is not Santa Claus who brings them gifts on Christmas Day.

The tradition here in Spain is that Los Reyes Magos, known as the Three Wise Men or the Three Kings in English, bring Spanish children their gifts on the Day of the Epiphany, January 6th. According to Christian tradition, this was the day that Melchior (known as Melchor in Spanish), Caspar (Gaspar), and Balthasar (Baltasar) came to visit the baby Jesus and brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Read on to learn more about the Spanish Christmas tradition of Los Reyes Magos.

Forget about Santa Claus! Los Reyes Magos are the most important figures at Christmas in Spain.

 

Photo Credit: Mike King, Text Overlay: Devour Madrid Food Tours

Cabalgata de Reyes

Festivities officially start the day before La Adoración de los Reyes Magos. On January 5th, in towns and cities all around the country, Spanish families line the streets to get a glimpse of the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, a reenactment of the arrival of the Three Kings. These parades are truly a sight to behold! Amidst dancers, musicians, and puppeteers, the Kings ride on camels or elaborate floats and throw goodies, usually candy or sweets, down to the children.

Make sure to go to a parade on January 6 to see Los Reyes Magos in person!
Los Reyes Magos make the Christmas magic happen! Photo credit: Malojavio el Saucejo

Later that evening, kids leave out their shoes in a spot where the Kings are sure to see them. Much like the traditional milk and cookies for Santa Claus and his reindeer, Spanish children often set out plates of food or sweets for los Reyes. The camels also receive dried grass or hay from the traditionalists, or milk and bread if those aren’t handy! The next morning, children are delighted to discover that los Reyes have nibbled the food or eaten it entirely. But most importantly, next to their shoes are the wrapped presents from los Reyes Magos, waiting to be ripped open!

Roscón de Reyes

Another important tradition after the gift-opening is the breakfast of Roscón de Reyes. It’s a delicious round cake with candied fruit on top. The fruit symbolizes the precious gems that adorned the Wise Men’s clothing. You can purchase a plain roscón or one with fresh nata (whipped cream), trufa (truffle cream) or cabello de ángel (candied spaghetti squash).

In addition, there will be two plastic-wrapped figurines inside the cake: a faba bean and a small king. Whoever gets the slice of the cake with the small king is the “king” or “queen” of the banquet. As a result, this person will have good luck for the rest of the year. On the other hand, whoever finds the faba bean has to pay for the roscón! There are a number of pastry shops and bakeries in Madrid where you can try a Roscón de Reyes. Look for them in the weeks leading up to the celebration.

One of the most delicious Christmas traditions in Madrid? Enjoying some tasty roscón de reyes, eaten on El Día de Los Reyes Magos!
El Día de los Reyes Magos wouldn’t be complete without roscón, the must-eat treat!

Although sightings of Santa Claus are becoming more common in recent years, historically La Adoración de los Reyes Magos is the most important Christmas tradition in Spain. If you are in Madrid on January 5th, you MUST add seeing the Cabalgata to your holiday to-do list. And be sure to buy a roscón to accompany your morning coffee or hot chocolate!

Looking for other activities to do during your stay in Madrid over Christmas? Join us on one of our food tours! We are open over the Christmas period and with expert guides, plenty of delicious food to try and some fascinating history to learn along the way—you won’t regret it! We hope to see you in Madrid this holiday season!

33 Comment

  1. Great overview. Thanks for sharing! Hope The Three Kings bring you everything you would wish for yourself

    1. Kay Fabella says: Reply

      Thanks Steve! Happy Holidays from Madrid!

    2. Chuy Rodriguez says: Reply

      You too Steve!!!! Happy holidays!
      -Chuy

  2. Molly says: Reply

    My favourite Roscon de Reyes is the Cream ‘Nata’ one. I can’t wait, just a few days to go til the Barcelona cabalgata.

    1. Lauren Aloise says: Reply

      Mmm I know, I love the Cabalgata! But I think my favorite filling is trufa, yum!

      1. jun says: Reply

        what animals did the three kings arrive with

        1. Derek isolata says: Reply

          The elephant, camel, and a mule

          1. katherine says:

            what is a mule

          2. International secret service says:

            Good job sir! You really know your facts on Three Kings Day and its history!

      2. Alyssa says: Reply

        the three kings arrived by camel! Luv the website! <3

  3. […] to New Zealand! But luckily for us the holidays aren’t quite over. Last week we talked about Los Reyes Magos and the last of the Spanish Christmas holidays, El Día de los Reyes Magos. A big part of this fun […]

  4. […] sat around watching football on Sunday, our little band of ex-pats here in Spain got to watch Three Kings sit around on their asses (think donkeys not butts). […]

  5. Ryan says: Reply

    i love spain rascons my favorite is rasberry

    1. That looks fun

    2. <3 Mmmmm

  6. Cómo says: Reply

    The food looks great

  7. […] Roscón de Reyes is a must on Three Kings Day, January 6. The sweet-bread cake is topped with candied fruit and sometimes filled with a layer of […]

  8. […] in Spain, according to the tradition…Papa Noel (the name of Santa Claus in Spain) does not give present…. They will get theirs on another special day which is on the January 6th every year. Plus there […]

  9. Ayonna says: Reply

    that was good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. […] On the morning of January 6th, children wake up to more gifts, candy, and celebrations. In Spain, parades not unlike the Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day parades are held around the country. Miami has its […]

  11. Allá says: Reply

    cool

  12. […] the arrival of the Magi. It’s a sight to behold and lots of fun for the little ones. Click here for more about […]

  13. […] Posted In: 3 King's Day in Madridbest pastries in MadridChristmas sweets in MadridKing's Cake in MadridMadrid pastriesReyes Magos in MadridRoscón de Reyes in Madrid Previous […]

  14. […] I don’t know about you all, but I am still reeling from the parade of holiday deliciousness that was the Christmas holidays. Seemingly unending feasts of sweet almond turrón were topped only by the downright irresistible cream-filled King’s Cakes. […]

  15. […] often filled with whipped cream is the traditional cake of Spain’s Dia de los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day. While most bakeries offering roscón de reyes only do so during Christmastime, Pozo sells it […]

  16. […] of all Spanish desserts. It’s the most common Spanish dessert to eat on 6th January for El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the […]

  17. I love to eat trufa its amazing…

  18. Antjuan says: Reply

    what foods are you supposed to eat other than the cake

  19. isaiah says: Reply

    the food lookes amazing i want it! the three kings are awesome

  20. Erin says: Reply

    Why do the children leave out shoes? How did that tradition begin? I asked a friend of mine who is Spanish; she had no idea. 😉

  21. […] of the holiday season takes place almost two weeks after Christmas on Jan. 5. The night of Jan. 5, los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings) bring presents to children across Spain. And on the morning of January 6th, […]

  22. […] Los Reyes Magos (three kings celebration) Here, the celebration of the journey of the three kings is bigger than the Christmas celebration. The holiday is a combination of Halloween, Christmas, Independence Day, and the Macy’s Day Parade. Sevillianos celebrate the arrival of the three kings with a 33-float parade around the city. The floats, or “cagalbatas,” have different themes and kids in costumes throw “caramelos” or little candies and toys to the people watching the parade. Watch out! The public is very competitive about catching the candy thrown from the floats; people bring umbrellas to catch more candy than their neighbors! The parade continues with a band and people in costumes as the kids await the arrival of the kings and their gifts (similar to Santa Claus).  click here for more info! https://madridfoodtour.com/los-reyes-magos-the-spanish-christmas-tradition/ […]

  23. Ted says: Reply

    Th food looks fabulous

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