The tradition of the Thee King in Spain

By Isleta Design Studio 4 years ago

The day of the Epiphany in Spanish culture

Christmas holidays are about to end and after having discarded all the presents and given the best wishes to our dears and friends, there is nothing left to do but to tell you a bit about the atmosphere that you can breathe today in Las Palmas, and in most of Spanish cities. During the 5th and 6th of January, in fact, the day of the Epiphany is celebrated with the arrival of the Magi, the three wise men who, after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, came from the East to pay him homage and give him gifts of great symbolic richness: gold, incense and myrrh.

In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria these three characters are eagerly awaited by all the children. Yes, Santa Claus has got only the silver medal because actually every child of Spain has his own favorite King and writing only to him the letter with the gifts he would like to receive. On January 5th, the Three Kings parade in a cabalgada to receive all the letters of the children in a party full of colors, confetti and sweets. The parade starts from La Isleta district, up to Triana district and seems to last many hours because the carts showing are so many! But let’s see better who are these three wise men from East. We have imagined them very “oriental-ish”, and well recognizable in the typical colors of the Spanish tradition, red, blue and green.

Melchor Magus

King Melchior is the king represented with a white hair and beard, with light skin and a red cloak. As a gift he carries gold and the meaning of his name in jewish is “king of light”. In popular culture he represents the adult age of man.

Gaspar Magus

King Caspar is the king with red hair, sometimes brown, with a kind of mulatto skin and a blue coat. His gift is a casket full of incense and for this reason we imagined him a little more “Indian”, with a more evident turban and two big reddish mustache. In popular culture he represents the middle age of man.

Baltazar Magus

King Bhaltazar is probably the most characteristic king of the three, with his dark skin and his green cloak. His gift is the myrrh, a resinous and perfumed ointment used according to tradition to anoint the Child Jesus, from which derives the meaning of his name, “the Anointed”. We imagined him as a king with Persian, Egyptian and Babylonian characteristics. In popular culture, King Bhaltazar brings “coal” to children who behaved badly throughout the year. However, coal is usually a sweet made mainly from sugar and black dye. Maybe this is why he is the king most appreciated by children!

The King Cake

The tradition of the Three Magi Kings is associated with a typical dessert throughout Spain called Roscón de Reyes, also known as “King Cake“. Actually it seems to be a typical dessert in many other cultures, like the French one, with a recipe and a tradition that change throughout Europe. It is a sweet big donut cake covered with almonds, sugar and candied fruit of three colors, yellow, red and green. According to the tradition, this tasty Christmas cake usually contains in its inside a dried broad bean and a figure of a King. Whoever meets the dried broad bean is due to pay the Roscón while the lucky one who meets the figure is crowned “king for a day”. Here we leave you with a kind of nursery rhyme in Spanish linked to this curious tradition that ends the Christmas holidays.

Roscon de Reyes - Illustration
He aquí el Roscón de Reyes, tradición de un gran banquete
en el cual hay dos sorpresas para los que tengan suerte.
En él hay, muy bien ocultas, una haba y una figura;
el que lo vaya a cortar hágalo sin travesura.
Quien en la boca se encuentre una cosa un tanto dura,
a lo peor es el haba, o a lo mejor la figura.
Si es el haba lo encontrado, este roscón pagarás,
mas si es la figura, coronado y Rey serás.
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