In Spain, it is not just Father Christmas who delivers presents to all good Spanish girls and boys, it is also – indeed mainly! – Sus Majestades Los Reyes Magos, their Majesties the three Wise Kings of the traditional and familiar nativity story who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. In recent years, Father Christmas has become increasingly popular, with many Spanish children now asking for, and expecting, presents from both sources, but the arrival of Los Reyes Magos is still the most special of occasions.
“Kings’ Day”, Epiphany, or our Twelfth Night, is on 6 January, so everything apart from the most touristic of businesses will be closed. 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 doughy confection richly-decorated often in the Epiphany colour scheme of green, gold and purple and with a gold paper 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 my own childhood Christmas puddings!
As with Father Christmas’s arrival on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, the Kings deliver presents the night before, rather than on the day itself. Throughout Tenerife, therefore, there will be parades of Sus Majestades – usually on the traditional camels – any time from 5pm on the evening of the 5th, and as they parade, they throw little gifts and sweets into the crowd. The main parade, or cabalgata, is 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 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 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 above videos of Los Cristianos and Adeje show, and there are always widespread traffic restrictions and security measures in place, so get there at least two hours before it all starts for a good viewing position!