Updated 5 January: Today’s the day! Tomorrow is Reyes, but it’s this evening that the Kings will parade through towns in Tenerife, often on camels, always throwing sweets … and of course delivering presents after the children have all gone to bed! Details are below of the main parades, and of course tomorrow is a public holiday!
Original post 1 January: For many of us, New Year’s Day marks the end of the Christmas holiday, but in Spain it’s not Father Christmas who delivers presents but the three Kings. These are the Magi of the traditional Bible story who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus in his crib in a Bethlehem stable, a tale represented in a formal Belén (nativity scene) in most Spanish towns, e.g. La Orotava’s major one HERE, and have a look too at Jack Montgomery’s article about them HERE.
“Kings’ Day” is Epiphany, literally meaning “appearance” (of the Magi). It’s the Twelfth Night of Christmas, and so on 6 January, everything will be closed except in the main tourist areas. Apart from their presents, many children look forward to one of the most traditional foods which will be available in all food shops, a roscón de reyes – Kings’ cake – a circular enriched dough confection decorated in the Epiphany colours of green, gold and purple, and with a gold crown on top. Many have a tiny gift for luck hidden inside along the lines of the silver threepence which used to be an integral part of many childhood Christmas puddings!
Just as Father Christmas arrives late on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day so the Kings deliver their presents the night before in order that they’re there ready for children when they wake in the morning. On the evening of the 5th January, therefore, there will be parades throughout Tenerife of Sus Majestades – usually on the traditional camels on which they followed the star from the East. The parades start between 5 and 7pm or so, and as they ride in procession the Kings throw little gifts and sweets into the crowd.
Father Christmas has become increasingly popular over recent years, with many Spanish children hoping for presents from Papá Noel as well as the Kings, but the arrival of Sus Majestades Los Reyes Magos is still the most special of occasions. The main parade, or cabalgata, is at 7pm in Santa Cruz, where Sus Majestades arrive by helicopter at the Heliodoro Rodríguez López, and then parade through the streets of Tenerife’s capital. As always, there will inevitably be more people wanting to see them arrive than there are spaces in the stadium. Tickets are normally available a few days in advance, and usually cost €1, with the money going to charity, but of course there is no limit to numbers – and no cost – to see the parade on the streets.
In south Tenerife, one of the most popular cabalgatas is in Los Cristianos, where the Kings arrive around 7pm at the harbour from the sea – like the eastern corsairs of old. Their procession from there on camels follows the road up from the ferry, turns right up Avenida Suecia to Church Square, and then on to the Cultural Centre, where they are met by the mayor who gives them the key to the town – so that they can open all the doors they need to get through overnight to deliver presents to Arona’s children! In Adeje, the Kings arrive around 5pm by helicopter at El Galeón football ground, and then proceed along the town’s main Calle Grande. In Granadilla, the Kings start at the Church of San Antonio de Padua where they offer gifts to the baby Jesus, and then parade through the town to the Los Hinojeros sports stadium.
Apart from these large cabalgatas, most towns have some sort of Reyes events, and they all get extremely crowded, as the following videos of past parades in Los Cristianos and Adeje show. There are also always widespread traffic restrictions and security measures in place as well, so plan to get in position by at least an hour beforehand for a good viewing position!