Friday, January 20, 2012

Barcelona Three Kings Day Parade

As I wrote in my last story, Three Kings Day is the celebration of the Epiphany here in Spain. The day celebrates when the three wise men came to give gifts to the baby Jesus. These days, for many people in Spain, it's a holiday that's shared with family and when kids receive their "Christmas" presents. If you'd like a little more background, you can go back and read that story.

Even though I'd had left my shoes outside the night before, there were no presents for me when I woke up. I guess I'm lucky though since I didn't get coal either. It allows me to believe, no, hope that, because I'm still relatively new in Spain, that the kings "just forgot" me this year. Other than the not-so-great start, the rest of the day was great. Our friends Carol and Juan came over with their kids to have dinner with us, which was a lot of fun. After dinner, we walked about five blocks to watch the big city-wide Three Kings Day parade.

The parade was similar in theme to the Poble Sec one that we went to the night before but, being the official city-wide one, everything was bigger and more deluxe. The kings came back for an encore performance but this time, their rides were even more spectacular:

The parade had a feel sort of like something out of a mini Cirque du Soleil with lots of fantasy-style costumes and complex equipment designs. It was at the same time very unusual and very cool. These are African drummers who are being pushed down the street on tall carts while they play:

There were a few different groups that had objects raised up high on long sticks. In this case, it was a flock of birds that "flew around" as the people walked along. A bit surreal...

I mentioned the overly complex machinery that seemed like something that an aspire-to-be Cirque du Soleil designer came up. Some of the floats were built on top of buses that had had their roofs removed and others were built on semi-trailer flatbeds. This float had a fairy character who was suspended about 20 feet out in front of the main vehicle, which was a very-large industrial cherry picker:

One thing that I forgot to mention in the last story is that every group and float that goes by throws candy out to the people who are watching the parade. The goal is to scramble and grab as much candy as you can just like someone beat open a pinata. The big difference with this version is that you're trying to scramble for candy among parade floats the size of buses, horses pulling carriages, and about a million people competing with you. Yeah, a bit scary...but...some person who's much smarter than me came up with the idea to mount catapults on top of some of the floats. With the catapults, the candy-distribution folks can launch candy way back into the crowd away from the dangers in the street. Unfortunately, there's a small risk of loosing an eye but who cares! It's fun!!!

There are a lot of similarities between how Christmas is celebrated in the United States and how Three Kings Day is celebrated in Spain. As in the Christmas carol Santa Claus is Coming to Town, these guys, who are standing on top of rolling ladders, are reading off the names of the Catalan kids who have been naughty or nice this year:

My favorite float of the parade, well, besides the grenade/candy launcher, was the coal-production one. On this one, younger folks were dressed up in their best Mel-Gibson-post-apocalyptic-slash-Willie-Wonka-Oompa-Loompa garb and were dancing to way-too-loud music. Following behind the float were members of the coal crew who were carrying lit flares, which you can see casting a red glow in the photo below. This photo in no way does what was going on any justice:

Going to the parade reminded me of parades that I've gone to in the past (way before this blog was even a bad idea). Some day I'll have to go to and write about the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena California and the Mummers' Parade in Philadelphia. Both are New-Years-Day parades that are different because of their somewhat unusual themes.

Thanks for the fun time and for coming out and celebrating with us Juan Camilo, Ana Maria, Carol, and Juan:


  1. Lucky me I weren´t there... I love candies and would probably been hit by a bus or something trying to catch a tiny-winy lollipop :)

  2. barcelena - I had Ana Maria on my shoulders for a lot of the parade so I had limited mobility... If not, I'd have been fighting it out with the little kids around me for sure!!!


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