The Twelfth Night and theThree Kings’ Day are the most important days during christmas for many Spaniards and especially for children, as there are parades and Christmas gift distribution.
The weekend is very much about the three wise men, or the magical kings in Spanish named Los Reyes Magos. All Spanish children know they named Melchior, Caspar and Baltasar and they also know what they look like and that they rode on camels.
Twelfth Night, January 5th
This is not a public holiday in Spain, but the celebration starts during the evening. There are big parades in the towns and these are called Cavalcade of Magi. The Three Wise Men are roaming through several cities throwing large amounts of sweets to the spectators (and sometimes also toys). The parades are quite big. In the relatively small town of Fuengirola, there are 25 cars this year, throwing 20.000 kg of sweets. In Fuengirola The three kings are arriving by helicopter to the Elola stadion at 4 pm and the parade begins at 5 pm.
The times when the parade begins varies, but the start is usually between 4pm and 7pm in most cities. The biggest is in Madrid and it starts 7:30 p.m. and is always being shown on Spanish television. It is best to check with the tourist office in each city for times and routes. A tip is to have plastic bags to pick up the candy and some will even bring an umbrella that they hold upside-down to make it easier to catch the candy.
After the parade, families are celebrating and children are expected to clean their shoes that they will exhibit at either the stairs or even better on the windowsill. At night the Three Kings will leave gifts where the shoes are. Many children have already written wish lists to the kings. The Spaniards puts out liquor, candy and other goodies for the three wise men and their camels.
Epiphany, January 6th.
El día de los Reyes Magos, which is the Spanish name, is a public holiday throughout the Catholic world, and even in most other Christian countries. In the morning, children finally get their awaited Christmas gifts and the day is a great family day. It is a tradition that the three wise men are riding around in the cities in Spain during the day handing out gifts to children who are hospitalized. Another tradition is the pastry roscón de Reyes. It is the traditional breakfast that day (but it is occasionally eaten the evening before).
Another thing that happens that day is the drawing of the lottery El Niño. The name El Niño (the child) is of course directed at the baby Jesus. You could say that Christmas in Spain is initiated on December 22nd with the world’s biggest lottery, El Gordo and then finishes with the much smaller lottery El Niño.
The day after, on January 7th, Christmas is finished in Spain.