Los Reyes Magos

Sponge Bob Square Pants
White float
Baltasar's float
Last night, the Reyes Magos (Three Kings) came to visit every city, town and village throughout Spain, on varying scales - on camel, horse, donkey and elephant; helicopter, boat, skis; while the smartest arrived on the AVE, the Spanish high-speed train which beats the rest of Europe's rail services. My personal favourite was those who arrived on Harley Davidsons to give presents to the children in the Virgen del Rocio Hospital in Seville. Baltasar (the dark-skinned one), Melchor and Gaspar were hard at work yesterday, delivering presents to children. We went to our local cabalgata in the evening, which is a procession of (in our case) five floats, wonderfully decorated with animals, flowers and popular children's characters (we had Sponge Bob Square Pants, who I suspect featured widely throughout the country this year). The Three Kings perched on their thrones, plus the cabalgata queens - in our case, wearing white on a white float with huge feathers, giving a swan-like effect, every little ballet-dancing girl's dream - are accompanied by helpers in coordinating outfits. All of them throw sweets and small presents - we caught a plastic inflatable football, some play figures and some mini-address books. Flying boiled sweets (you can see them in motion, in the Sponge Bob photo, above) actually hurt when they hit you, and both my friend's babe-in-arms and my husband's nearly-bald head took some battering. Some people hold inverted brollies in front of their heads, partly as protection, and partly to collect the tooth-destroying delights. The real pros take plastic bags and dive for the best stuff, though most of it is cheap plastic crap from China. I saw people carrying three or four bags bulging with loot. Political correctness hasn't arrived in Spain yet, and Baltasar is nearly always blacked-up like one of the Black and White Minstrels, although a few places do stretch to using someone whose skin is naturally that colour. Some of his helpers have coordinating facial colour, and in our village, the police-in-waiting, young people with whistles employed to warn people of the lumbering tractors' arrival (they pull the floats), also sport bootpolish. Tractors aren't quiet, but Spanish people are well-known for their love of standing chatting in the street, or wandering down the middle of it, oblivious to traffic wanting to pass. There was a good atmosphere, lots of families, but also young people, who were the most enthusiastic when it came to diving for the larger presents being lobbed from the floats to those waiting expectantly on the street. The usual band played jolly music, and in our case the procession started and finished in the little square, where the church and orange trees were all lit up and the whole effect was very festive. I'm sure those of you who saw the Reyes in a big city, such as Seville, Malaga or Granada, had a more impressive show, but our one is local and friendly, and we even managed to bump into my son's best friend. The looks of delight on those two little boys' faces, as they caught the balls thrown by one of the Reyes, was what these occasions are all about.
Blog published on 6 January 2011