Photo: Tenerife Cabildo.
New Year’s Day might mark the passing of the old year, but it doesn’t mark the end of the Christmas holiday, especially not in Spain where it’s the Three Kings who deliver presents rather than Father Christmas. 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, when many in the UK will be thinking about taking down their decorations, in Spain it’s a full public holiday, the climax of the entire Christmas period with children on tenterhooks from the earliest hours, excitedly opening their presents, and everything closed except in the main tourist areas.
And just as Father Christmas arrives late on Christmas Eve to deliver presents for Christmas morning, so in Spain the Kings deliver their presents the night before the big day so that they’re ready for children when they wake in the morning. On the evening of the 5th, therefore, there will be parades throughout Tenerife of Sus Majestades (Their Majesties), usually on the traditional camels which the Bible stories say they rode from the East to follow the star in the sky; some Reyes these days themselves arrive from the sky, by helicopter! The parades start from around 5 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 the Kings arrive by helicopter at the Heliodoro Rodríguez López, and then parade through the streets of Tenerife’s capital. As always, there are far more people wanting to see them arrive than there are spaces in the stadium and tickets costing €2, a nominal sum which goes to charity, usually sell out within an hour or so! There is no limit, however, to numbers – nor any cost – to see the Kings parade in the streets of towns throughout Tenerife.
In south Tenerife, one of the most popular cabalgatas is in Los Cristianos. In previous years, the Kings have arrived late afternoon at the harbour from the sea and ridden on camels from their ferry up to Avenida Suecia, on to Church Square, and then around to the Cultural Centre where the mayor presents them with the magic key to the town that will open all the doors to deliver presents to Arona’s good children! Since last year, instead, the Kings arrive direct at the Cultural Centre at around 4.30pm with the mayor’s presentation of the magic key forming part of a “pre-parade spectacular”. The parade itself starts around 7.30pm and heads through the town from the Cultural Centre to Church Square, down Avda Suecia and on to the Casa del Mar near the harbour.
In Adeje, the Kings arrive at El Galeón football ground around 5pm in the afternoon and then parade along the town’s main Calle Grande. In Granadilla, their Majesties 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!