The Three Wise Men arrive in Catalonia carrying presents and causing excitement

The night of January 5th is the most important and magical nights of the year for thousands of children in Catalonia. It is when the Three Wise Men –or the Three Kings in Catalan– bring presents. Traditionally in Catalonia, presents are not delivered by Santa Claus on the evening of December 24th, but instead on the evening of January 5th by the Three Kings who arrive in all Catalan towns. Parades are organised to welcome them. Afterwards, when the children are sleeping, they enter through the window or balcony and leave presents for every family member.


January 5, 2012 07:56 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The evening of January 5th is the time for Catalan children to witness the arrival of the Three Wise Men, otherwise known as the Three Kings. Towns and villages throughout Catalonia are decorated to receive their Majesties from the East by preparing an enormous display of colour, sweets, presents and, excitement amongst the youngest members of the house. The Epiphany parade performed along the streets of different cities symbolises the biblical journey of the Three Wise Men to worship and bring gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the heavens. As times have changed, so has technology and the Three Wise Men nowadays arrive in Catalan towns by boat, train or even helicopter despite this year’s budget cuts, delighting children and adults across the territory.

A biblical tradition

Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar are the Magi or Three Wise Men who, according to the biblical tradition, reached Bethlehem on the night of January 5th after following a star in the heavens to meet newborn Jesus Christ. Once they found him, each of the Magi offered the baby a different symbolic present: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The tradition also says that after visiting Jesus, the Three Magi gave presents away to all the children they crossed on their way back home.

Thus, the Catalan ‘Nit de Reis’ or ‘Night of the Kings’ marks the eve of the Epiphany, the Christian holiday celebrating the worshiping of the Three Wise Men to Jesus. And it is on the morning of January 6th when Catalan children traditionally receive their presents, rather than on Christmas day, which comes as a result of the introduction of foreign celebrations. The visit of Santa Claus during the late evening of December 24th started to become popular in Catalonia only around two decades ago. In the past only foreigners celebrated this in the country. The tradition of the Three Kings is also shared with the rest of Spain.

Sweets, milk, liquor and water for the camels to receive the Three Kings

On the eve of January 5th children usually leave their shoes ready for the Kings’ presents, which they previously asked for in a letter. It is also common to leave a glass of milk or liquor for the Kings, as well as fruit, sweets or nougat. In addition, a bucket of water is left for the Kings’ camels, on which they travel and carry the presents. In the morning, the whole family celebrates the Epiphany with the opening of the presents and eating the typical cake of the day known as tortell de Reis or kings cake.

In the past the Three Kings were mysterious figures that came at night without being noticed. However, nowadays the ‘Night of Kings’ is associated with parades and processions where the Three Wise Men distribute sweets and collect the letters of those children who left their present wishes to the last minute.

The arrival of the Three Wise Men in Catalonia

This year’s difficult economic situation has affected the Epiphany parades of Catalonia. The Three Kings will arrive on Thursday to Catalan towns with the same excitement as previous years but with a significant reduction in resources that exceeds 60% in some budgets. Despite this fact, those responsible for the parades promise that the effort of organisers and collaborators will substitute the lack of funds. Therefore, whether the Three Kings arrive by sea, land or air, children from all over Catalonia will be able to enjoy the most magical night of the year.

Barcelona welcomes the Three Wise Men in the Port Vell

Like every year, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar will reach the Catalan capital city by boat, specifically disembarking from the historic schooner ‘Santa Eulàlia’. The budget cuts have reduced the number of floats (from 12 to 11) as well as the general amount of funds for the parade by 20,000 euros, leaving a budget of 630,000 euros.

But organisers say the cuts will be balanced with the participation of more that one thousand people that will make sure the parade entertains the public along the six kilometres route across Barcelona with choreographies and three new floats.

Girona’s town council, on the other hand, has decided to maintain the same budget as last year’s parade and hardly modify the route or the floats. It is in the southern province of Tarragona where towns had to adjust their budgets to reductions of between a 60% and 20%.