Spain celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings with restrictions

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As tradition indicates, on the night of January 5, the Three Wise Men and their pages toured the streets of many Spanish cities to distribute hope and gifts to the little ones. However, due to rebound in cases caused by the omicron variant, cities like Mojácar or Bilbao had to cancel the event.

Places like Madrid, Barcelona and Seville were able to celebrate the long-awaited parade, although they did so with various restrictions to avoid contagion.

After the parade, Mía, a 3-year-old daughter of Colombians, is looking forward to the Three Kings bringing her gifts during the night. [Foto: Júlia Riera, VOA]

It’s 7:30 p.m. and from Badalona, ​​a city located in the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona, ​​Mía awaits the arrival of the Three Kings with nerves and excitement. Like her, millions of children living in Spain look forward to one of the most special nights of the year.

“I have behaved well,” says the 3-year-old girl, of Colombian parents, to the Voice of america. He knows that Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar watch from a distance and reward the children who have been good during the year with gifts. On the contrary, they distribute coal to those who have been more naughty.

“It’s very magical,” Prisca says about the traditional parade minutes before it starts. The young Spanish woman, in her 20s, is an example that the Three Wise Men not only cause a sensation among the little ones. She explains that she had planned to attend with a friend, but finally her companion could not come and she did not want to stay home: “I don’t want to miss it, I like it a lot, it reminds me of when I came when I was little and I always cry. I’m excited because I enjoy it a lot ”, he says with a smile.

A few minutes later the nervousness of the little ones is noticeable in the environment. “They are coming, they are coming!” shout some children located in the first row so as not to miss any detail. In the distance an impressive float can be seen announcing the arrival of King Melchior, the one who usually appears first in parades. It arrives to the rhythm of music from the Far East and accompanied by numerous dancers.

The helpers of the Magi collect the letters that the children have written. [Foto: Júlia Riera, VOA]

The helpers of the Magi collect the letters that the children have written. [Foto: Júlia Riera, VOA]

Behind him comes King Gaspar, and then Baltasar. In addition, each monarch brings with his float a group of pages and helpers, who are in charge of carrying out one of the most anticipated tasks for infants: collecting letters where children write what gifts they want to receive and what wishes they want to fulfill on the day next, on January 6.

Although some localities organize a meeting with the Kings and a collection of letters before the night of January 5, those who cannot attend can also deliver their missives during the parade.

And, after the majestic parade of their majesties, the charcoal chariot float usually arrives, reminding the children that they must behave if they do not want to receive coal instead of gifts the next day.

Once the parade is over, the people quickly scatter back to their homes. It should be the only day of the year when the little ones are in a hurry to go to bed. They all want the morning of January 6 to arrive, when, if they are lucky and behaved well, they will receive the gifts they asked for in the letter they gave to the royal helpers.

But, before going to bed they must do something: As the night is very long and the Kings work a lot, they must leave them something to eat and drink, such as nougat or polvorones. They must also prepare a glass of milk and some food for the camels in which their majesties have traveled from the East.

Horseback riding with restrictions

Their majesties arrive to the rhythm of oriental music and with a large number of dancers.  Photo: Júlia Riera, VOA]

Their majesties arrive to the rhythm of oriental music and with a large number of dancers. Photo: Júlia Riera, VOA]

This year the parades have been marked by restrictions. In Badalona, ​​in addition to having to wear a mask, it has not been possible to throw sweets to children from the floats, as was done before the pandemic.

“As a child it was my greatest illusion and all the children were crazy for candy, so I suppose it must be very hard for many,” explains Prisca.

Other Spanish cities have imposed similar measures. In Seville, for example, narrow streets of the old town have been avoided, and Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar have traveled wider avenues to avoid crowds. In Valencia and Murcia there have been static parades, and, in Alcoy, where the oldest Three Kings parade in the country is held, attendees have had to provide the vaccination certificate.

Popular tradition among Latin Americans

And although this custom of religious origin is deeply rooted among Spaniards, there are more and more Latin American migrants residing in “the motherland” who take to the streets to receive their majesties.

One of them is Raúl, of Peruvian origin. He comments that he has been living in Barcelona for more than 10 years, but having no children and for work reasons, he had not attended the parade before: “I am here with some nephews, we have come to share these beautiful moments … The children are very excited” .

Freddy, from Colombia, is another migrant who has traveled to the center of Badalona to receive their majesties. She hopes her children “have fun” and “begin to soak up the Spanish culture”: “I find it very beautiful that they have the opportunity to meet other different cultures,” she explains with a smile.

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