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 will be thinking about taking down their decorations, here it’s the climax of the entire Christmas period with children on tenterhooks, parents gearing up for the main event, and everything 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. Often there’s a tiny gift for luck hidden inside just as there were silver threepences in the old Christmas puddings, an integral part of many a childhood Christmas!
Just as Father Christmas arrives late on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day so the Kings deliver their presents the night before 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 – usually on the traditional camels which the Bible stories tell us they rode to follow 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 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 €1, a nominal sum which goes to charity, usually sell out within an hour or so, and they did again this year! 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! This year, instead, the Kings will actually arrive direct at the Cultural Centre itself, by helicopter, at 6pm with the mayor’s presentation of the magic key forming part of a “pre-parade spectacular”. The parade itself will start around 7.30pm and go through the town via Av. Amsterdam, Av. Los Playeros, Av. Suecia, and down to the Casa del Mar near the harbour where they will receive all the letters from children with their particular requests for presents to open on Sunday morning.
In Adeje, the Kings also arrive by helicopter late afternoon at El Galeón football ground, then parading 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!