Do you remember the poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”? Well in Spain it should be, “Twas the night before King’s Day.” For more than 125 years people have gathered on the Sunday before the 6th of January for the festival of the Three Wise Men (Magi).
During this feast, the most important dish is Roscon de Reyes, or Twelfth Night Cake. King’s Day would not be King’s Day without a Roscón de Reyes on the table. Peek through the window of any bakery (panadería) the night before the parade, and you will hear the clatter of baking pans, ovens and probably a few stressed bakers trying to finish the hundreds, even thousands, of Roscón de Reyes they will need to have ready for the queues of clients in the morning.
On the evening of the 4th, The Royal Envoy marches through the streets with his troupe of “les burretes” or small donkeys, announcing the arrival of the Magi. Each donkey has a letterbox attached to its back for the children, dressed as shepherds, to drop handwritten notes to the Kings.
The Three Wise Men make their grand appearance on January 6th, riding through the city streets on camels and carrying bags full of gifts for all the children. As torchbearers light the way, the Three Wise Men hand out gifts and even use stepladders to get up to the balconies where children watch.
By the end of the night, city streets are filled with music continuing into the late hours, as the Magi stay to meet with every child and for everyone to consume piece after piece of Roscon de Reyes.