After returning to Barcelona and just as I thought that the holidays were finally over and that I could start to work off some of those eggnog calories, along comes the Three Kings Day celebration!
Three Kings Day, The Epiphany, or as it's known here in Spain, El Dia de los Reyes, is the celebration of the day long ago when the Three Wise Men, or, as I lovingly call them, The Three Wise Guys, gave some gold and two crappy gifts to the baby Jesus. The celebration takes place twelve days after Christmas on January 6th. (It's believed that these were the OG twelve days of Christmas and the commercial version that we have now, which takes place before Christmas, is probably a more recent "tradition".) On this day, the kings, who represented Europe, Africa, and Asia, arrived into Bethlehem on Camel Airlines, Air Horse, and Elephant Airways (I think they were airlines) after being guided by a particularly dramatic star sighting.
The celebration of Three Kings here in Spain starts the night before when everyone in the family leaves their shoes outside so that the three kings know who lives in the house. The kids then leave snacks for the kings and their camels...just like our Christmas traditions... And after everyone's gone to bed, the kings stop by at some point and, according to shoe size and quality, leave some gifts, which hopefully lean more towards gold and less towards the frankincense and myrrh (even the spelling of these words suck!). And again, just like in the "western" tradition, coal is left for the bad kids. Over time, of course, due to The Simpsons and other evil western influences, people in Spain are somewhat confused and some celebrate both Christmas and Three Kings, and others, who are not good people and don't want to shower the kids with gifts twice, celebrate one day or the other.
The two days of festivities kicked off for me with a Three-Kings eve neighborhood parade that winds its way around the area where I live, which is called Poble Sec. As with all proper parades, this one is led by some questionable Harley-types:
The three kings each has his own ride and all three have bunch of local kids with them. This is the "main" king with his court on a truck-based float:
One of the other kings was brought in via horse-drawn carriage. This shot is taken in the plaza in front of El Molino Theater:
The full parade was probably about 10-15 minutes long with a variety of floats and groups marching. A surprisingly large number of people were out watching it go by. Just a thought...the kids were visibly excited just like you'd see in the U.S. on Christmas eve. I wonder if their parents want to kill their kids by the end of the night too? Nah, probably not. They're way too cute in their little king outfits, right???
Pretty much every outdoor event I've gone to in Barcelona has had at least one drum group made up of teenagers. The wear T-shirts with devil logos (or other evil characters) and beat the living crap out of their drums. I'm guessing it's good for getting energy out of them but I can't imagine where they practice.
Like I mentioned above, the tradition of bad kids getting "a lump of coal" is part of the Three Kings Day tradition too. But, unfortunately, as part of the new European Union and Spain austerity measures, they've begun to use child labor to extract the coal. It seems somewhat ironic to have kids mining coal that will be given to other kids, or maybe to themselves if they haven't been good. It brings a tear to my eye...
The parade ended in a small plaza nearby where a long line of kids...
...was waiting for the three kings to arrive:
Just like millions of kids in malls do each year, they wait in line with their "letters to the kings" for their chance to sit on the king's lap and tell him what they want for Three Kings day.
On a side note, the king who was seeing the kids that day did an amazing job. He was very patient, put up with the crying babies without blinking an eye, and really seemed to be engaging each and every kid that came up. I was impressed. The whole event was a nice way to kick off yet another Spanish holiday.