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Catalan folklore

The Traditional Three Kings Day Festival In Barcelona

Written by Laura

The Three Magis are a Christian tradition that refers to the three kings who, on the night of Jesus’ birth, came to visit the newborn to pay homage and give him gifts. It was in the 19th century that the custom of celebrating Three Kings day as a festival for children began in Spain. The names of the actual three kings of history, Melchor, Gaspar and Balthasar, appeared for the first time on an old tablet from the sixth century. The celebration of these Christian figures is undoubtedly one of the largest celebrations in all of Spain, which is why today in this article from ShBarcelona, we’ll be talking about the traditional festival of the Three Kings in the Ciudad Condal.

Related article: Celebrating New Year’s Eve In Barcelona

The Three Kings festival: the most exciting holiday for children

Photo via Pixabay

The morning of January 6 is one of the most impatiently awaited by the majority of Spanish children. However, the Three Kings festival involves a series of customs that begin the day before, on January 5. The first and most important is for children to write a letter to the kings that contains each child’s wishes and gifts they would like to receive. The children give the letter to a royal page for it to be given to the kings. In order for the kings to bring what the children ask for, that have to have behaved themselves well throughout the year; if not, the kings reserve the right to be less generous with their gifts. The evening of January 5 is when one of the most important parts of the celebration takes place: the Cabalgata de Reyes, or Cavalcade of Kings. Throughout the villages and cities, the people await the arrival of the kings who come on carriages full of gifts to be given to the children on this magical night. This procession of the kings is one of the grandest and most spectacular events of the year, with more than half a million people showing up and participating.

Related article: Catalan Christmas Traditions

Photo via Pixabay

In Barcelona, the 2019 Cavalcade of Kings will begin with their majesties the Magi of the Orient arriving by boat to Port Vell at 4:30, where they will be received by the mayor of the city and dedicate some words to the children. At 6:30 the procession will begin with the magis traveling in their colorful carriages, greeting everyone and throwing out carmels to the children of the city. The procession will come to a halt at 9:30 at the Montjüic Fountain. At the end of the procession, the children return to their homes and leave out water and food to give the kings strength on this busy night. Finally, on the morning of January 6, the children awaken with the excitement of finding out what the three kings have brought them during the night. The crowning jewel of the holiday season is a meal where families reunite to eat the famous dessert of the holiday, king cake. This traditional dessert may appear to be the edible manifestation of the advent wreath, but in reality is a tradition where two things are hidden inside the cake – a bean and a figurine of a king. When the cake is served, whoever receives the bean has to pay for the cake, and whoever receives the figurine is named the king or queen of the house.

*Main photo by Ark in Time via VisualHunt

Do you know what you are going to ask for for Three Kings Day?

About the author


American journalist living temporarily in Spain. Her passions include news and feature writing, Spanish language and culture and the outdoors.

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