A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! And Happy Kings Day too! I am feeling rather spoilt, having had two Christmases this year. I enjoyed a lovely Christmas at home, although I felt quite busy due to my attempts to see all my friends and various family members. I then came back to Seville on the 2nd to start Christmas all over again!
In Spain, they celebrate on the 24th and 25th a little, perhaps with a meal with the family or something similar. However, the main event is definitely King’s Day, or Epiphany, when the three Kings arrived to give their gifts to Jesus. This happens on the 5th/6th of January (12 days after Christmas). There is a large procession in every major city in Spain on the 5th with lots of floats and people throwing sweets. This is proceeded by a smaller procession on the 3rd to announce the arrival of the Kings. Apparently there is a specific person who does this, but I forget his name……….On the 6th, Spaniards give their gifts and basically celebrate how we do on Christmas Day.
In many ways, the mini ‘cabalgata’ on the 3rd was a good warm-up for what would come on the 5th. As this is a smaller event, normally there is a procession for each district of the city. It is therefore shorter and there are less people crowding the streets. We lined up along the street outside the building where the procession was starting from. Suddenly, a brass band started playing and a man dressed in Middle-Eastern clothing appeared on the balcony. He and all of the people in the procession had painted their skin black, which was a bit strange. The Spaniards also call Balthazar ‘el negrito’ due to his skin colour! He shouted a few things from the balcony, everyone cheered, and then the sweet-throwing started. They were throwing little biscuits and lindt as well, although unfortunately I wasn’t close enough to catch any. They then came out on to the street and rode horses while throwing more sweets. There were a few musicians as well who were playing a song for the Kings – it even has lyrics about bringing present to Jesus, a bit like our songs about Santa Claus! We took a short-cut to watch the procession pass again and grab more sweets before heading to a friends house for a little gathering with a few other families, also with little children….who were hyper on sugar from the sweets…
On the 5th it was the big event: La cabalgata de los Reyes. The procession goes all over Seville through all the districts and so it lasts for about 4 or 5 hours in total. As it starts near to where we live, Marta suggested that we could watch it pass and then have a meriencda with lots of friends at the house. This was something they had done last year as well. At 4:30 we fought our way onto the streets and elbowed out a space for our large group – me and the family, plus Marta’s sister, Augusto’s parents, and two other families! The people next to us got a little uppity that we were encroaching on ‘their space’ and kept giving us evil glares and the occasional elbow in the ribs. It has to be said that Spaniards are not the most accommodating of people….
The procession started with a giant inflatable star (presumably the star followed by the Kings!). An assortment of brass bands and floats made up the procession, many of the floats seeming to be completely random – for example the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and one with characters out of The Jungle Book. There were floats with children dressed in Egyptian clothing, and one that looked like a nativity scene. The three kings all had their own float and everyone chanted the name of that King as he passed in an attempt to make him throw more sweets out. A word of warning: if you ever find yourself at a cabalgata in Spain, make sure you are wearing a helmet. THOSE SWEETS CAN REALLY HURT. Especially when thrown with deliberate force, as I saw many a child doing with a malicious grin on their face. The amount of sweets was ridiculous. There were perhaps about 15 floats, each with about 20 or 30 people on throwing huge handfuls of sweets into the crowd. We collected about 3 bags full – I think we will still have them by the time it comes around again next year!
At about 5:30 the procession had passed us and was off to other parts of the city. We went back to the house with our hoard of sweets for our little party. Although it wasn’t little at all. In total, there were perhaps 20 adults and another 15 or so children. The kids, already charged on sweets then indulged in a huge merienda of croissants and palmiers and other wonderful Spanish patisserie, and so were beyond hyper. I have never seen Luisette eat so many biscuits!! I think he ate about 4 (and they were big), and then also 2 chocolate croissants and a donut! 😲 I was on duty, following him around, making sure he and the other kids didn’t kill themselves or anything. Consequently, I ended up being taken prisoner by them and made to sit on the ‘naughty chair’ for about half an hour…..which was actually quite funny. As I was being punished, Marta ran into the playroom saying that she could hear a noise on the balcony! All the kids suddenly jumped up and ran to the living room to find Marta’s brother (as I later worked out, but it took me a while) with his skin painted black and dressed as one of the Kings. The kids then took it in turns to sit on his knee and tell them what they wanted for presents – just as we do with Santa. Eventually, it was bedtime. We managed to get Agu into bed reasonably early considering how excited he was, with the effective threat of ‘If you don’t go to sleep then the Kings won’t come’! I also went to bed shortly after having been completely worn out by playing with children all day, and was curious to know what was awaiting us tomorrow….
Agu woke up at 7:30am, which could have been worse. There was a trail of sweets leading from his room to the Christmas tree and all the presents, of which there were millions! Marta also gave me some very nice presents, and enjoyed my gifts to her of some fancy tea and some nice shortbread biscuits. I am converting her into a tea enthusiast (I have already succeeded in persuading her to buy a kettle! I didn´t even know they had them in Spain!!), and Augusto happens to LOVE the shortbread biscuits. (Brownie points earned!) After opening all the presents, we had a fabulous breakfast on the croissants and everything left over from the day before. We then went to Marta’s mum’s. It was essentially the same as Christmas day in England, with lots of presents, too much food, and all the family. The only slight difference was that we sat outside in glorious sunshine and 20 degrees heat to eat – something that rarely even happens in summer in England! I greatly enjoyed my Spanish Christmas and felt very welcome with the family who included me in everything. But I tell you what, doing Christmas twice is exhausting!
Until next time,