January 6: a day full of gifts in Spain

On 6 January, alarm clocks are not necessary. Well, maybe there are alarm clocks, but they are in person format and not the digital ones. Whether it is a family member or your own nerves, on this Christmas day the early bird is guaranteed. A morning of emotion that makes being in bed for the first and only time of the year not pleasant. The Three Kings pass by all the houses leaving gifts and it is time to check who has been the nicest.

Reyes Magos en la cabalgata.| Shutterstock

The Three Kings at the parade.| Shutterstock

A long journey

Right foot on the floor to find the slippers and start the search for gifts. It depends on the house and the year, but the search can become a real trial gymkhana if the Three Kings have been creative in leaving the gifts. But in most households they place each present next to the shoe of the family member under the Christmas tree. 

The journey from the East is a long one. The stops at the homes are constant, and although the Kings are magicians, they also get tired. To recover their strength, they eat and drink what is offered to them at home. There are all kinds of snacks: sweets, milk, juice, biscuits and a long etcetera. The luckiest families even receive a note written by Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar in gratitude. 

Regalos bajo árbol de navidad. | Shutterstock

Gifts under the Christmas tree. | Shutterstock

Origin of the Three Kings

The first reference to the Magi is religious and is found in the Bible. The Gospel of Matthew states that the Magi, guided by a star, travelled around the planet until the star stopped at the portal of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. As a gift they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn. From this event arises this tradition that has changed over the years; but it is a festival that is celebrated with great importance in Spain. 

The Three Kings travel from the East guided by a star, the most imposing in the whole sky, that of Bethlehem. Despite being a symbol of this day, studies conclude that it is not a singular star, but a series of astronomical events. A symbol that was later used as a Christmas decoration and crowns every tree that decorates the home on this date.

Reyes Magos. | Shutterstock

The Three Kings. | Shutterstock

By magic they go around every corner handing out gifts to everyone who has written and sent the letter to them. It is true that there is a halo of magic that surrounds these Kings called Magi; but the reality is that they receive their name for a matter of etymology. 

The term ‘magi’ attributed to Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar is derived from the Persian language. In this language, ‘maguusha’ means ‘priest’. The word travels through different languages such as Greek and Latin until a semantic change occurs in the word and the term ‘mago’ in Spanish is used to refer to them today.

Gifts and a sweet ending

The gifts are very varied. From toys with the name of the little ones in the house, to ladders for the older ones. That is if during the year the behaviour has been the right one; because there are those who on this January morning receive coal. This gift has been modified over the decades. In the past, young and old received the mineral; but now it is considered a gift because it is a sweet and they enjoy eating it.

On this day traditions depend on each house. There are families who eagerly open all the gifts when they wake up and go to the tree and there are others who first eat breakfast and then discover the surprises. Although, if the little ones are up, the task of waiting becomes quite complicated. 

The breakfast par excellence on this January morning is the Roscón de Reyes. It is a typical sweet of this Christmas date, perfect to continue with the magic and surprises of the day. The tradition of this sweet lies in hiding a figure and a bean inside the donut. The person who finds the figure among its piece, is crowned as the king that day. On the contrary, if the bean is found, the person has to pay for the roscón as a punishment.

Roscón de Reyes. | Shutterstock

Roscón de Reyes. | Shutterstock

The recipe for making the roscón is very simple. It only changes depending on the taste of each one, the filling inside. There are roscones that are not filled, but those that are contain cream, chocolate, truffle cream or pastry cream, among many others. 

After satisfying the appetite and filling the stomach comes the saddest part of the Christmas holidays: picking up the Christmas decorations. It is synonymous with the end of the holidays and we have to wait until next year for the spirit of Christmas to embrace every corner. A time of intense emotions, both good and bad, in moments full of excitement. The colour of the tinsel, the lights that have faded on the tree and the dessert that accompanies the dinner do not matter. It comes back to reality until the calendar marks December again.


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