Los Reyes Magos: The Spanish Christmas Tradition

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 on 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

Reyes

Photo Credit: Decar66

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 down to the children, usually candy or sweets.

Los Reyes Magos, or the Three Kings, stand and observe the huge crowds in Madrid, each dressed in bright, colorful robes like the Three Wise Men from the Bible story

The Three Kings observe the crowd at the Cabalgata de Los Reyes in Madrid Photo Credit: Viajar a Madrid

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 and something extra for the camels (dried grass or hay for the traditionalists, or milk and bread if those aren’t handy!). The next morning, children are delighted to discover the plates nibbled or eaten entirely. But most importantly, next to their shoes are the wrapped presents from los Reyes Magos, waiting to be ripped open!

Another important tradition after the gift-opening is the breakfast of Roscón de Reyes. It’s a delicious round-shaped cake with candied fruit or fruta escarchada on top, to symbolize the precious gems that adorned the wise men’s clothing; sometimes the roscón is filled with fresh nata (whipped cream), trufa (truffle cream) or cabello de ángel (angel’s hair), a sort of sugared pumpkin jam.

Inside the cake, two plastic wrapped figurines are hidden: 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, and is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. 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 in the weeks leading up to the Reyes celebration.

A typical Roscón de Reyes contains candied fruit, representing the jewels on the robes of Los Reyes Magos, and also some normal fruit for extra decoration - a crucial part of the Spanish Christmas tradition

The colorful Roscón de Reyes is eaten on the morning of Three King’s day – so delicious! Photo Credit: Luisa

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!

Click to see a video of the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos!

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 Christmas time!

Featured Image Credit: Abhishek Shirali

About the Author

By Lauren Aloise / Administrator

Follow lauren-aloise
on Dec 28, 2012

Comments (26)

  • Steve Hall

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

    • Kay Fabella

      Thanks Steve! Happy Holidays from Madrid!

    • Chuy Rodriguez

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

  • Molly

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

    • Lauren Aloise

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

      • Jun

        what animals did the three kings arrive with

        • Derek isolata

          The elephant, camel, and a mule

          • International secret service

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

      • Alyssa

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

  • Ryan

    i love spain rascons my favorite is rasberry

  • Cómo

    The food looks great

  • Ayonna

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

  • Allá

    cool

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