• Merrick Wells

Need to know - The Three Kings

Updated: Jan 5

Bearing gifts we travel afar....The Spanish tradition of "Reyes" that extends the magic of the Christmas season that little bit longer and brings city centres to a standstill

Merry New Year! I know this one, this is a film with George Clooney...

No, this tradition is much older than that, admittedly, entertaining film.

This tradition dates from the Bible story of the wise men who travelled to Bethlehem to give gifts to the newborn baby Jesus. They are only mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew but it is not until much later that Christian tradition referred to them as Kings. The assumption there were three of them is based on the reference to three gifts; Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

That stable was busy that night hey?

No, the nativity (or Belén) scenes have developed a degree of artistic convention to show the shepherds, angels and wise men worshipping new born baby Jesus together.

Well that is like visiting hours at any maternity ward.

Except for the animals and the straw obviously.

I don't know, that the public healthcare system is woefully underfunded...

Well, the wise men visited Jesus at an unspecified later date at a house, and in the reference, only Mary is mentioned as present.

Joseph was probably out working, not sure paternity leave was an option back then

It could have been much later than the approximately two weeks used by Christian tradition today. It could, in fact, have been up to two years later, considering Herod's order to kill male children up to two years old.

Woaah...Back up...an order to kill infants?

Yes, the story is that Herod was made aware of the coming of Jesus by the wise men, and he saw this prophecy as a threat to his power. He asked the wise men to tell him where Jesus was after they had found him, so he too could adore him. They were then warned in a dream not to return to Herod and took a different route home.

They were warned in a dream? Just the one dream? They had the same dream? What?

Look, it seems the whole tale on a massacre of the innocents seems to have been an invention. There is no historical evidence of such an order but rule under Herod was pretty brutal. This all ties into Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt to avoid the murder of Jesus. This has led to many modern day references to Jesus being a refugee and there are some texts that talk of Jesus travelling much further afield than Egypt, even reaching Britain.

Stop. The Boat. What are you talking about? Surely they should have claimed asylum in the first safe country they reached?

You cannot apply current year standards to the actions of the past...but there are two theories that Jesus first visited England with Joseph of Arimathea, trade routes were much better established than we are led to believe. Spending time in the west country, around Glastonbury, learning the ways and teachings of the Druids. The second theory is that he then spent time in Tibet and India after the crucifixion to learn the traditions and mysteries of the Eastern faith.

So three kings...three faiths...three missions...

It is all fascinating, but I would suggest not to engage in such conversation at the Cabalgata..

The CavalGato what now?

Spanish tradition has grown in a distinctly different direction to our Anglo Saxon Christmas ways. Although Christmas gift-giving has been adopted on Christmas day or Christmas Eve, and Father Christmas has been accepted, the Spanish embraced the three kings (Reyes Magos - the Magic Kings) as the gift-giving opportunity. The Cabalgata (Literally Cavalcade) is the parade that takes place on the eve of Epiphany (Jan 6) in every Spanish city or town. The Cabalgata in Alcoy, Alicante claims to be the oldest in the world, dating back to 1886...

Not as old as some would like to think...

Well precisely, the evening of January 5th is probably best spent avoiding the city centre entirely, or bunkering down in the man nursery better known as the pub. The streets come to a stand still. A long parade is greeted by screaming children eager to collect the sweets raining down on them and parents jostle each other for best position. That is before we even discuss the resultant exodus and the strain it places on public transport.It is a nightmare of snarled up logistics and chaotic sugar rush screaming...

This all sounds a little "Bah Humbug!" of you...it can't be that terrible

You weren't there man...you weren't there...

You seem overly cynical of what seems to be a very enjoyable and magical established family tradition...

Oh, it gets worse, then there is the black face outrage...

I knew it! Racism!

Balthazar, one of the kings is traditionally portrayed as black. It has been the custom to have a Spanish person black up their face to play Balthazar in the festivities. There has been a campaign for a real black Balthazar in Spain since 2009. Progressive councils have been employing black men to play Balthazar across Spain in recent years.

How is this received by the generally conservative Spanish population?

With indifference, except the jobbing actors losing their Three King work, the general feeling seems to be as long as they don't start introducing Magic queens everything is fine...

We three Queens....that would just be silly...

Madrid have been doing so since 2015...

Words...fail...

No matter, all in all, it is then just a Father Christmas template...

I heard he was non-gender binary...

No, that was just a ruse to smoke out crazy anti progressives....please do not interrupt...as I was saying, Spanish children, leave their slippers out when they go to bed, alongside a drink of milk and some biscuits for the three kings, not forgetting a carrot for the Reindee...I mean Camels, who visit on their magic camels and leave gifts for the children.

Doesn't sound too much like cultural appropriation at all.

Careful now

What happens next?

Well, the usual, all round grandma's house for prawns and boiled Cow testicles.

So in summary, it just seems like a way to eek out some more mad purchasing on the high street while us Anglo's are busy taking down our Christmas decorations and contemplating our new pauper diet....

And you get a bank holiday...

God bless the Three Kings!

And not forgetting the Roscón...

Wait...Roscón...I thought that was for San Valero?

San Valero is specific to Zaragoza, do you not remember our conversation about him? Roscón is generally a three kings thing, but Zaragoza had Roscón associated with San Valero at the end of January in the very recent past...look check out our info on him here...I have to plan my escape route out of the city on January 5th....

#ThreeKings #ReyesMagos #BlackFace #Madrid #Tradition #Christianity #Balthazar

Podcast - Dead Air

Get In Touch

© 2015-2020 Bulldogz