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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
The Magi are coming! 
5th-Jan-2011 07:41 am

We're still celebrating here in Spain. Tonight, los Reyes Magos, the Three Kings, Three Wise Men, the Magi who visited Jesus to bring him gold, incense, and myrrh, will deliver presents to all the good girls and boys, and coal to the bad ones. Tomorrow we'll open our presents, and on January 10, we'll go back to work.

Tonight the Three Kings arrive in Madrid in a colossal parade: 13 floats, 12 theater companies, marching bands this year from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and the Appalachian State University of North Carolina, and tributes to such illustrious personages as Einstein, Newton, and grandparents; along with elves, fairies, unicorns, swans, pirates, sirens, princesses, ballerinas, giant seagulls flying in the sky — in all 1,400 people marching, dancing, or prancing past an anticipated 800,000 spectators.

The giant floats for the Three Kings will be decorated with 2.7 million lights, and they will be accompanied by 110 children serving as pages. A 9.5-meter-tall mechanical page will precede them. At the end of the parade, the Mayor will give the Kings the key to the city so they can enter all of the houses, and one of the Kings will read a message that, among other things, will order the children to go straight to bed after the parade.

Legend says one of the Three Kings is from Africa, so of course he's black. Tradition in Madrid calls for the Kings to be portrayed by aldermen, one from each political party, but since there are no black alderman, traditionally Baltasar is a politician in blackface. I've lived here eleven years and I still think it's funny. The photo from last year's parade is by El Imparcial newspaper:

Another colossal number: Participants in the parade will toss 4.600 kilos (10,120 pounds) of candy at the spectators. Kids bring umbrellas whether it rains or not: turned upside down, an umbrella makes a great candy-catcher.

If I had kids, I might go because it doesn't get any better than this, but instead I'll be here at home. I'll have a great view of the fireworks at the end of the parade.

— Sue Burke

5th-Jan-2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
How neat! I've heard that Christmas used to extend at least until Twelth Night, but it is so delightful to discover that some of these old traditions still exist. I am amused by the black-faced Alderman. I wonder how they decide which one is going to be black-faced.
5th-Jan-2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
They select the aldermen by drawing lots.

Spanish Christmas is filled with traditions. This morning at work we ate the traditional Roscón de Reyes (Kings' Round Cake), which comes in a doughnut-shape topped with candied fruit to look like a crown. There's a prize baked inside, too, and a coworker found it in her piece: a tiny doll.
5th-Jan-2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's neat. There were a number of things like that in China...interesting traditions and foods that went with them. On some holidays, for instance, you eat mooncakes. Still not sure exactly what they are, but I love the name.
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