The Three Kings arrived by boat in Marbella last year. / JOSELE

Children in Spain eagerly await arrival of Three Kings

Youngsters all over the country are getting excited as they wait for Los Reyes Magos bearing gifts on the night of 5 January

Tony Bryant

The Costa del Sol, along with the rest of Spain, is getting ready for the traditional procession of Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings, or Wise Men), the final spectacle of the Spanish festive season. Tradition says that the Three Kings, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, followed a star that led them to baby Jesus and upon arriving, they offered gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh on the Twelfth Night.

For this reason, every year, as 6 January approaches, children begin to write letters to their favourite king. In these letters, the children tell the kings how well they behaved during the year and ask for the gifts they would like to receive. In theory, and in a similar manner to the tradition of Santa Claus, the better the children have behaved, the better their gifts will be. After this, comes one of the children's favourite moments, when they deliver their letters to the kings when they arrive on 5 January, or to the emissaries found in the centre of all towns and cities a few days before.

The Three Kings festival, as such, is not very widespread and is celebrated only in some Spanish-speaking countries, mainly because Santa Claus has prevailed elsewhere.

Gift giving in Spain is delayed until 6 January. The night before, the kings announce their arrival by means of a colourful parade known as La Cabalgata de Los Reyes. The streets are lined with thousands of excited children clambering for the sweets thrown from the elaborately-decorated floats, often accompanied by an array of cartoon characters.