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!

28 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

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

      Thanks Steve! Happy Holidays from Madrid!

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

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

      Reply
    3. December 11, 2017 at 10:08 pm

      thanks steve you sound like a real swell guy

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

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

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

        A nosotros también nos encantan las navidades!

        Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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!

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

        what animals did the three kings arrive with

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

          The elephant, camel, and a mule

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

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

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

    i love spain rascons my favorite is rasberry

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

      That looks fun

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

      <3 Mmmmm

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

    The food looks great

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

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

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

    cool

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

    I love to eat trufa its amazing…

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

    what foods are you supposed to eat other than the cake

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

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

    Reply
  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. 😉

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

    Th food looks fabulous

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  13. 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.

    Reply
  14. May 11, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Kaip idomu!

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

      Ačiū!

      Reply

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