When we speak about the distribution of gifts on Christmas most think of Santa Claus as the ‘bearer of gifts’, in my Portuguese Catholic tradition I was raised with the notion that the gifts were being distributed by the Baby Jesus. And in Spain, the distribution of gifts is celebrated on the evening of Epiphany the night before the Feast of the Three Wise Men.
Whereas Santa Claus is based on the legendary bishop of Myra St. Nicholas, who use to distribute gold coins in the shoes of poor children in Turkey, in the Portuguese tradition the reason for the distribution of gifts is that the Baby Jesus offers himself to all humanity. And in the case of the Spanish tradition, the choice of the three wise men is because their gifts were the only ones described in the Bible: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In all of these traditions we see the religious foundation. But the Spaniards have made this their own, and have taken a unique view to the distribution of gifts in their traditional “Cabalgata de los Reyes”, which is a parade celebrated in every city of the country.
This parade is leaded by the Star of Hope followed by the Three Wise Men, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar. The Three Kings distribute candies and greet children on the street. In this parade, the kings are followed by a large entourage which helps to distribute the gifts to the crowd who come to watch parade. It is a festive atmosphere as participants sing and listen to Christmas carols in remembrance of the arrival the Saviour.
The Spanish “Cabalgata” started in the year 1866 in the city of Alcoy situated near Valencia, but rapidly spread to all of Spain and last year even a Portuguese city close to Galicia in the north of Spain held its own “Cabalgata”.
With these traditions,Spainends the Christmas festivities in apotheosis, with the joy of the arrival of the Three Wise men who came to praise not just the Baby Jesus with gifts but also to remind us of how precious and beautiful the revelation of the incarnation of the Christ is.
Photo credit: emrij