I don’t know about other countries, but in The Netherlands the holidays finish after January 1st. Christmas decorations disappear from the streets and people get back to work or school. However, in Spain the holidays last a little longer. On January 6th they celebrate “los reyes magos” (the three wise men or kings). Which originates from the three men who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus after his birth.
We could say that this is more or less the spanish version of Santa Claus or Sinterklaas (for the Dutch people). A couple of weeks before Christmas the children write a letter to their favorite king; Melchor, Gaspar or Baltasar and ask for presents for themselves and their family. After that, they just have to wait to see if their wishes will be fulfilled.
During the night of January 5th, the three wise men arrive in every city of Spain. This happens in a parade, called cabalgata. Some parades are a bit bigger and more special than others, in some cities real camels are used, in other places they use costumes or decorated trucks. The participants and the kings in the parade throw candies to the crowd and los reyes are warmly welcomed by all the excited children and their families.
The next morning it is finally time to see if the three wise men have actually brought what you wished for. In most of the cases the children get exactly what they wanted, but if they are unlucky and have behaved badly during the year, there is a chance they will get carbón dulce, this is black “coal” which almost completely consists of sugar.
After opening all the gifts the traditions are not over yet. Now it is time to eat the roscón de reyes; this is a sweet pastry which has two things hidden inside it. One is usually a figure of a king and the other is a bean. Whoever finds the figure of the king will be crowned king or queen for that day and the unlucky person who finds the bean in his piece of pastry will have to pay for the roscón.
With this lovely, family day the holiday season has come to an end and it’s time to get back to the normal, Spanish life.