Their Majesties, the Reyes Magos

Gaspar visiting Santa Cruz de la Palma
Gaspar visiting Santa Cruz de la Palma

Although Father Christmas does visit Spanish children, he’s a new arrival. Traditionally the presents arrive on the morning of January 6th, when the three kings visit baby Jesus. (The sales don’t normally start this early, because Christmas isn’t over here.) And on the evening of the 5th, their majesties ride in procession through most of the major towns and villages in Spain. In previous years we’ve usually gone to see the procession in Santa Cruz. They start at the south end of town and meet up at the Plaza España, where they find they’re all following the same star and agree to travel together. When they get to the Alemeda, they find King Herod’s court. Of course, he wants to know what they’re doing in his country, and then makes them promise to tell him where the child is. They travel up the baranco from the concrete ship, and find Mary, Joseph and Jesus in a cave, and leave their presents. Then finally, an angel tells them not to even think about telling Herod where to find Jesus.

At that point they light the bonfires in the (hopefully dry) river bed and set off the fireworks.

Baltazar visiting Santa Cruz de la Palma
Baltazar visiting Santa Cruz de la Palma

There are lots of processions on La Palma (Santa Cruz de la Palma, Villa de Mazo, Puntagorda,Tazacorte, Los Llanos de Aridane, Los Cancajos, and San Andrés y Sauces) and the one in Santo Domingo de Garafía, which is supposed to be particularly good. Traditionally it starts at 10pm, and there’s a long drive back for me, which is why I’ve never seen it.

The shops will stay open at least until midnight for people who’ve left buying presents until the last minute. The 6th is always a public holiday.
Bad children traditionally get coal. Well, the Spanish use the same word for coal, charcoal and carbon – carbón. There’s a kind of sweet coal you can buy as a joke.  But actually I hope I get my carbon very, very compressed , as diamonds.

I can dream, can’t I?

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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