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!

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39 Comment

  1. Steve Hall says
    December 28, 2012 at 4:19 pm

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

    1. Kay Fabella says
      December 28, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks Steve! Happy Holidays from Madrid!

    2. Chuy Rodriguez says
      January 6, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      You too Steve!!!! Happy holidays!

      1. jonny says
        January 6, 2020 at 4:05 pm

        happy holidays
        Best day ever

        1. Devour Tours says
          January 7, 2020 at 10:51 am

          Happy holidays, Jonny! Hope you had a wonderful Three Kings Day!

    3. cornelius henderson says
      December 11, 2017 at 10:08 pm

      thanks steve you sound like a real swell guy

    4. Mariam says
      February 1, 2018 at 12:13 am

      Yo mis vacaciones favoritas son las navidades. Celebro la Navidad estando con mi familia

      1. Katie Stearns says
        February 12, 2018 at 4:38 pm

        A nosotros también nos encantan las navidades!

    5. jofasa says
      January 9, 2019 at 4:45 pm

      do you know what they arrived on

  2. Molly says
    December 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    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
      December 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm

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

      1. jun says
        January 6, 2015 at 6:07 pm

        what animals did the three kings arrive with

        1. Derek isolata says
          January 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm

          The elephant, camel, and a mule

          1. katherine says
            December 15, 2015 at 11:51 am

            what is a mule

          2. International secret service says
            April 20, 2016 at 2:26 pm

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

        2. Maddie says
          January 23, 2019 at 2:29 pm

          elephant, camel, mule

      2. Alyssa says
        January 6, 2016 at 2:02 am

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

  3. Ryan says
    January 6, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    i love spain rascons my favorite is rasberry

    1. katherine says
      December 15, 2015 at 11:45 am

      That looks fun

    2. katherine says
      December 15, 2015 at 11:46 am

      <3 Mmmmm

  4. Cómo says
    December 21, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    The food looks great

  5. Ayonna says
    January 5, 2016 at 8:05 pm

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

  6. Allá says
    January 11, 2016 at 5:17 pm


  7. jonmillr says
    May 21, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I love to eat trufa its amazing…

  8. Antjuan says
    November 14, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    what foods are you supposed to eat other than the cake

  9. isaiah says
    November 29, 2016 at 3:48 pm

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

  10. Erin says
    December 30, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    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. 😉

  11. Ted says
    January 10, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Th food looks fabulous

  12. Maya Piotrowski says
    December 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    This is a really good article very informational because I am learning about the three kings at school.

  13. Lolita Schum says
    April 1, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    Cuando mis hermanos y yo perdemos los dientes, los colocamos debajo de la almohada para que el hada de los dientes los tome, al igual que los niños que dejan fuera los zapatos.

  14. Pliadisfoto says
    May 11, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Kaip idomu!

    1. Devour Tours says
      May 13, 2018 at 1:21 pm


  15. kcuf says
    December 19, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    is this italian

    1. Devour Tours says
      December 20, 2018 at 7:12 am

      Spanish 🙂

  16. December 26, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    […] 6th January is Christmas Day in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. In western traditions, it’s the Feast of the Epiphany and the final day of the Christmas season. It’s largely ignored outside of religious communities. […]

  17. amani says
    January 8, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    I love gifts!

  18. Addison says
    January 8, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    Why did they give the gifts to Jesus?

  19. dale says
    August 21, 2019 at 4:34 am

    Amazing! just what i needed for my Spanish assignment!

  20. Smurf says
    December 19, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Hola come esta? Spain anyone?


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