Happy Kings' Day

Here in Barcelona I've just finished a long, noisy family lunch which began with children opening presents. Today, the Feast of the Epiphany -- we've lost sight of it in the US and the UK, since it was merged with last Sunday -- is the day when, in Spain, gifts are given, commemorating those presented by the magi to the Holy Family.

It's a beautiful tradition, which theologically makes much sense: Christmas Day is a feast day, when families come together as they do in the rest of the Christian world; but today, the "Day of the Magi", families gather again to exchange presents. Young children learn that the Kings came during the night on their dromedaries bringing them gifts (in Mexico, apparently, children leave their shoes filled with hay for the camels to eat). No reindeer or chimneys here, and the three kings are much more universal than our Nordic old man, representing, as they do, Europe, Arabia and Africa. 

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Last night we went out on the street to meet the Kings -- each barrio here organises floats with elaborately dressed magi, who toss candy as they go past. The children recognise the Kings with the same ease as children in the UK and US do Father Christmas -- and they shouted their names as they passed: Gaspar! Melchior! Balthazar!

Our Epiphany lunch ended with a Roscón de Reyes, a cake made with orange blossom water and butter, and decorated with candied fruit. Baked inside was the figure of baby Jesus and a bean: the one who gets the first wins the euros we all contributed; the one who gets the bean pays for the cake.

It's a great reminder that it's still Christmas -- at least until tomorrow.

So whatever you're doing today: Felices Reyes!

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