The most magical night for children in Catalonia
All towns in Catalonia welcome the arrival of the Three Wise Men on the 5th of January. Children and parents gather on the streets throughout the country to greet the Kings from the East in an enormous display of colour, sweets and presents that cannot fail to delight everyone. The Three Wise Men often travel by camel, but they have also been known to visit some towns using floats, classic cars, boats or even helicopters! Catalan children are very excited that night, because this is the “magical night” on which they traditionally receive their big Christmas presents – although some also get presents from other magic figures such as Santa or the very Catalan tradition of the ‘caga tió’ on the 24th of December.
Barcelona (ACN).- On the 5th of January, all children in Catalonia are very excited. They know that they are going to welcome to their town the Three Wise Men, the magical characters that bring them presents for Christmas. Every town and city in Catalonia greets the Three Wise Men with an exciting street party full of colours, music, sweets and a magical spirit. Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, usually celebrates with one of the biggest parades for the Three Wise Men, known there as ‘Els Tres Reis Mags’. They arrive in Barcelona by boat, to the delight of every child, and they are welcomed by public figures, who give them the ‘magic key’ to open all the doors in the city so they can leave their presents in every single house.
But the Three Wise Men are so magic that they travel in all sorts of vehicles. They traditionally arrived by camel, but in some towns they have been modernised and make their appearance riding in classic cars, on the top of a decorated float, on a motorbike or even in an helicopter! After the traditional parade, everyone goes home for dinner, and children are always asked to go to bed very early so they can wake up first thing in the morning to discover whether or not the Three Wise Men came to their house. And they usually do. Even children that are ill in hospital or care centers get their special presents. The Three Wise Men secretly leave the presents late at night, so when children wake up, they can unwrap all of them. In the weeks beforehand, every child has to write a letter to the Three Wise Men telling them how they have behaved during the year and describing what they would like as a present.
A biblical tradition
Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar are the Three Magic or Wise Men who, according to the biblical tradition, reached Bethlehem on the night of January the 5th after following a star in the heavens to meet the newborn Jesus Christ. Once they found him, each of them offered the baby a different symbolic present: gold, frankincense or myrrh. The tradition also says that after visiting Jesus, the Three Wise Men gave presents to all the children they met on their way back home.
Toys and cakes
Additionally, these days are usually a great opportunity for toy shops to sell most of their stock –although the crisis means this year they expect a loss of up to 10% of revenue. According to the president of the Spanish Toys Makers’ Association, José Antonio Pastor, every family will spend about 135 euros on average per child on toys. Due to the economic situation, families are thinking more carefully before buying presents so they usually end up getting only one or two things but of the best quality – instead of many different small presents.
It’s not only toy makers and sellers that excel during the Christmas season. These days are also busy for pastry chefs. The traditional ‘tortell de reis’ is a Catalan cake that families eat on the 6th of January. The president of the Association of Pastry Chefs in Barcelona, Joan Turull, said that they expect to sell about 850,000 ‘tortells’ on that day. However, people are spending less money on the cake these days, and are chosing to buy smaller tortells than before the crisis. Each family spends, on average, between 18 and 30 euros on the traditional ‘tortell de reis’. The 6th of January also heralds the start of the ‘Carnival Season’ giving everyone something to look forward to in the last few dark days of winter.