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: there’s a lovely article by Jack Montgomery about them HERE. “Kings’ Day” is Epiphany, literally meaning “appearance” of the Magi in that very stable. 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 are usually parades throughout Tenerife of Sus Majestades, their Majesties on the traditional camels which they are said to have ridden from the East to follow the star. This year, obviously, the parades will be very different but that won’t stop the Kings because the EU has designated them (appropriately!) key workers and so border and movement restrictions don’t apply to them. Throughout Spain, indeed, a key is exactly what they’re given: magic keys from the mayors of all municipalities that can open every door for the Kings to deliver presents to good children … and leave coal for the naughty ones! Here’s the key that’s already on the desk of the mayor of Candelaria, ready to hand to the Royal visitors when they arrive!