6/1 – Three Kings Day!

January 6, 2007 | 1 comment | Blog

Historically the Spanish have not celebrated the 25th of December as their main holiday, although, of course, they recognise it as a special day (any excuse for another holiday!). The main festival day for them is the day when the 3 kings (wise men to you and me) visited the baby Jesus on the 6th January. However because of the popularity of the ‘westernised’ Father Christmas the children now tend to get presents on both the 25th December and on the 6th January (I’m sure that they don’t complain too much about that!)

On the evening of the 5th January, celebrations and parades are held in all of the towns where three processions are lead through the town, each one followed by one of the three kings.

We had decided that we would visit the celebrations in Alicante as it’s the largest town within reasonable driving distance from our home, our reasoning was that the celebrations would be the best although we did feel a little guilty that we would not be visiting our closest smaller town, Santa Pola – but hey, we could do that another year!

We were forced to reconsider our plans when, at the bank earlier in the day, we asked the cashier for some information about the fiesta and she agreed that Alicante was indeed the largest and most lavish celebration, however she warned that we should go very early (at about 2pm for an 8pm start!) and that we should consider taking the bus in as there would simply be no parking available within a reasonable walk to the town centre – this all sounded a bit too much like hard work to us! We just wanted to see some floats and catch some of the sweets that we had heard would be liberally thrown around – sad eh?

We re-planned and decided that it would be much nicer if we supported the local community and visited the celebrations at Santa Pola – how fickle are we?

It was fantastic!

Firstly it was a very mild night, a thick jumper or tea shirt and light coat were all that were needed to keep warm – in fact Liesl had dressed in warm clothing on the advice of her mum (which was based on her cold experience last year, so it was sound advice), she had a fleece on top of her clothes and a heavy coat on top of that, she did decide however, after I protested, to leave the gloves at home. Poor girl was roasting, she had to take the coat off on the way home for fear of passing out from heat exhaustion!

We arrived at about 7:15 but didn’t know when the procession would start, or from what direction it would come, we did know that it would go towards the castle, so we started there. There were hundreds of people lining the streets, many more in the castle square where there was music and lights and general merriment. A number of things amazed us as we wandered around, firstly the PA and sound system comprised of several thousand pounds worth of technical equipment, cabling, computers, laser lights, huge speaker sets etc, all left out in the open, no one specifically watching over them (that we could see) – we said that it was amazing that none of the equipment was protected from the elements (I guess it just doesn’t rain that often here) and also none of it was protected from would be thieves – I guess the crowd would not take kindly to someone stealing from the largest and most religious festival of the year!

We were also amazed by the amount of work that had clearly gone into the preparation – we didn’t know whether the same decorations, costumes and models were wheeled out every year, but we suspected that they were made each year. One that particularly caught Liesl’s eye was a miniature model town, presumably Bethlehem in the year 0. It was housed in a small glass walled cabin and even had lighting to mimic a full day, when the sun went down, the fire lights at the side of each of the houses lit up – someone, had put a great deal of effort into it.

The processions started at around 8:00 with a band leading the first kings group through the streets, there were about 3 groups of ‘dancers’ in front of the king, the first group were children aged about 3-5 dressed as mice doing a little dance, we talked about how this group could have included Ella, the daughter of good friends of ours from the UK, Chris and Linda, we really could picture here in that group dancing away and waving to her family as she passed them!

Next followed a group of slightly older children with a more choreographed dance, but again in equally matching and clearly hand made dress, we wondered who could have been responsible for the costumes – they were all pretty much identical, so we suspected that instructions had not gone back to the parents of those involved as that would have, we guessed, resulted in different costumes – we also couldn’t believe that the state provided them, we finally decided that it must have been down to the schools – we must find out from someone.

The final group that passed us before the first king was of older children again, probably from 9 – 14 years, their choreography was clearly more practiced, but the costumes again were all matching, down to the red shoes that they each wore.

Then we were passed by the first king, to me the guy looked pretty much like Santa Claus, but I am reliably informed he looked nothing like him – check it out for yourself and make up your own mind in the pictures. He was on a trailer along with about 4 helpers; they were all pulled by a tractor and what looked like a very surprised farmer! Its strange that neither the farmer or the tractor were dressed up at all – lol, perhaps they didn’t know what they had been asked to go and pull through the streets until they arrived!

The king and his helpers threw 1000’s of wrapped, boiled sweets into the crowd as they passed, children scrambled to grab them as they dropped to the floor, most already had carrier bags quarter full with sweets, some even ran along side helping themselves to more as the king moved slowly forwards. We managed to catch and pick up a good couple of handfuls worth and we found a good use for the pockets of the heavy coat that Liesl had brought with her – well it wasn’t needed to keep her warm!

We also gave some sweets to 2 little girls that were standing next to us, their father seemed to own the restaurant that we were standing in front of, they couldn’t have been older than 3 years old and carefully and suspiciously accepted the sweets from us – perhaps they were wondering why on earth these strange foreigners would want to give away such a precious commodity.

Well that was the first procession through, the next two processions pretty much followed the same format as the first, smaller children, then slightly older ones and then the teenagers followed by the sweet wielding king and his helpers. We gathered more sweets, gave most away to our 2 new friends and Liesl even managed to practice some of her Spanish out on them, saying “ven aqui” (come here) and “más caramelo” (more sweets), well it seemed to do the trick – either that or the kids though “I have no idea what these people are on about but perhaps if I smile and walk towards them they might hand over some of their sweets again” – they were right!

After the processions there were 2 open backed lorries full of presents, they were being mobbed by the parents (sad eh?) and some of the children got a look in – we decided that as neither Liesl or I had previously played rugby that we would let the other adults, and whichever children didn’t get squashed, get the goodies (plastic dolls etc.)

Finally everyone congregated in the square to listen to what the 3 kings had to say – we have no idea what they said – lol – but they looked very impressive!

Afterwards we wondered back to the car and decided that we wanted to pop into a Spanish bar while the crowds cleared, Liesl spotted one and we went in, it WAS a Spanish bar, but it was playing Iron Maiden and had model (well I hope they were model) skulls on the shelf behind the bar – nice.

I nervously asked whether they had red wine, “¿tiene vino tinto?”, fully expecting, at the best, a laugh and an answer of “no” and at worst a punch in the mouth, however they were actually all very friendly and the bar man brought over 2 glasses of nice red wine and a small saucer of various nuts for us to eat, its was a nice diversion from having to push through the crowds to get to the car.

We finished our wine, found the car and made our way home – a good night was had by all.

One Response

  • Chris A says:

    Sounds like you had a fab night. See what you mean about the Farmer, he looks like he just brought his tractor to market and got roped in.
    I’m sure Ella would have loved dressing up as a mouse!

    Reply January 12, 2007 2:57 pm

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