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Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings) Bearing Gifts

Arrival of a King in Garachico

The high-spot of the holiday season in Spain and the Canary Islands, for adults and children alike, is when the gifts arrive with Los Reyes Magos - The Three Kings - (this seems logical, if you follow the original story) on their camels. 

In case you've forgotten they are: Melchor: An old man with a white beard. His gift to Jesus is gold, representing his royalty; Gaspar: A swarthy skinned young man. His gift is incense, which represents Jesus' divinity and Baltasar: A black man. His gift to Jesus is myrrh, which represents his suffering and future death.

On the night of January 5th
, you should put water and straw out for the camels and leave your shoes in a prominent place before you go to bed, next to which The Kings will leave your gifts - if you've been good. If not, you may get coal! And you can buy little sacks of black-dyed honeycomb in the shops for your little rogues.

Their Majesties are received by Herod

Most towns have parades through the streets on the night of January 5, with the Three Wise Guys arriving from the Orient (or a nearby village in the hills) on camels or floats. They throw sweets into the crowd for the children (of all ages) to catch. In Santa Cruz these popular characters can fill a football stadium, where these modern monarchs arrive by helicopter. In ports, such as Los Cristianos, the last leg of their journey from the Orient was on one of the inter-island ferries.

Their Cabalgata in Garachico, Tenerife, was slated to begin at 7 p.m. (yes, but where the "caravan" began, on foot, way up in the mountains) and carried on until well after midnight. (Get there early for parking though.) Accompanied by what seemed to be the whole town's youth, many dressed as Roman soldiers - carrying out their duties VERY seriously indeed - Their Majesties are received by Herod at the entrance to the town by the Castle, before making progress along the main streets and culminating in a Regal Pageant in the town square.

Garachico Town Hall doubles as the Kings' Palace

Fireworks crackled, drummers drummed (loudly), a fanfare resounded to announce the arrival of the cavalcade ... As horses and camels speed into the arena - real close between the seating laid out for the audience!

After a live re-enactment of the entire Christmas Story, complete with real live donkey, goats, sheep and even a human baby ... (with all the amusement you'd expect from such unpredictable participants, just like any school nativity play, and only adds to the cuteness), the Kings address the crowd from the palace Town Hall balcony, then take their thrones to begin dishing out gifts to a long list of kids, not just from Garachico, but from all over the island and even abroad. 

In recent years there has been a change in the format of these events: the use of animals is mostly discontinued to prevent their exploitation, as was the distribution of gifts publicly, so that "all the children can participate on equal terms".

Before that, local children put on a delightful show and, just to make sure this doesn't become an entirely spoilt "commercial venture", a film reminds us all of less fortunate kids in Africa, Asia, South America and other parts of the world. Us (so-called) grown-ups were way too tired to hang around right to the very end.

The scene is set outside the Church of Los Angeles

Traditional to eat on January 6, is Roscón de Reyes, a "crown" or ring-shaped bread, decorated with "jewels" of glacé fruits, which contains surprise gifts and a supposedly unlucky bean somewhere inside.

The year's second largest Lottery, El Niño, is also drawn on this day. This creates a bit of excitement in the Canary Islands, because, historically, this has dropped more decent prizes on the islands than the Christmas draw.

With Epiphany being on January 6th, it seems that Spanish Christmas holidays go on forever, but this is THE BIG DAY when everyone will have time off to be with their family. Many in the tourist sector worked on Christmas Day.

Santa Claus, better known here as Papa Noel, has gained popularity in Spain, appearing alongside Los Reyes Magos and he may bring a few presents on Christmas Eve - the justification is that it gives the kids more time to enjoy their new toys whilst they still have school holidays to amuse themselves in. The custom in families on the 6th is you get taken around to see what everyone got (with adults naturally feigning much surprise), which is great because you get to play with everyone's toys! Now I must go and get some straw ...

Tenerife Land of Eternal Christmas

Sunbathing SantaDesert Island ChristmasScuba Diving SantaTropical Santa
Santa's Having a Whale of a TimeSurfing SantaWaterski SantaCamel Rodeo Santa
With a wide range of products in each design, click the pics (above) to see the full selections.