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Saint Nicholas or Three Kings?

Every year it’s the same thing. Because I’m fully immersed in Spanish culture I have to go through this same old debate once again: Santa or “Reyes Magos”? And you might be surprised to learn just how strongly many Spanish families feel about keeping Santa out of Spain. Many, many families I know are staunch supporters of the Three Kings. As thus, they bar their doors to Santa Claus. In my opinion, this simply means the kids have to wait until the day before the end of Christmas break to get their presents. As a parent, that makes absolutely no sense to me because I feel the gifts my kids get at the beginning of the season make the holidays just that much more fun (and easy for me as a mother!). Still, I understand that this is not about convenience but rather about defending one of the last bastions of Spanish culture against the invasion of Hollywood – for example. At least that’s how my Spanish friends paint it up. And I can see they have a point. When I moved to Spain I remember how important it was for me to pass on my traditions to my kids. Of special importance to me was the famous Christmas stocking from Santa. Much to my dismay there was little chance for Santa to leave his gifts in the midst of all the chaotic Spanish family celebrations. One year I managed to arrange everything just right so Santa could have the stockings appear in the morning before all the cousins arrived to spoil the surprise. But wouldn’t you know it, someone decided to leave their children overnight on Christmas Eve and – with the stores closed so it was too late to arrange for Santa to make a last minute trip – it was once again impossible to carry it off… Once again I realised that there was only room for the Three Kings in the Spanish family celebrations and that my dear Saint Nick would have a rough time of it as he continued trying to compete for a place in my children’s hearts. So, I understand how my Spanish friends feel when Santa is infringing on their holiday traditions. They’re always reminding me of their fond memories of the Three Kings (just like I have mine of Santa Claus) and adamantly pledging to defend this tradition to the end of their days… Funny how nostalgic childhood memories can affect us for life! My message this week then is simply to beware. If you’re a Santa fan and you encounter a Three King’s supporter, remember there’s some bad blood there. You’re advised to keep a lid on your enthusiasm for jolly old Saint Nick and – if you really want to appear integrated – show a bit of respect for the Kings.
Blog published on 21 December 2009