Some ads with royal motifs

I know the season is past, but I just had some film developed and wanted to show some ads to do with the three kings. They were everywhere during the Christmas season! In addition to the milk carton I had shown before:


There are also ads inviting children to bring their letters:


And encouraging people to shop at the market (I love the king pulling his shopping cart!):


Cabalgata de los Reyes – part II

I felt like a 5-year-old again.

We arrived at the port around 3:30 pm to wait for the arrival of the three kings, scheduled for 5:30. There was a stage set up for the kings to greet the crowds before proceeding to the Port Authority building where they were received by the mayor, who gave them bread & salt as symbols of hospitality and the keys of the city. Around 4:30 they started playing Arabic music to get everyone in the mood and around 5 pm one of Their Majesties pages went on stage and introduced some of the other pages and the royal postmen (special pages responsible for collecting the letters that kids brought for the three kings). Everything was elaborately produced and well choreographed. The kids were totally entranced. And so was I.

Here’s what the area looked like 2 hours before the event:

Port of Barcelona

And here is the same place at 5 pm:

Port of Barcelona

As I explained in a previous post, the kings arrived by boat, a massive three-masted sail boat that is usually kept at the maritime museum. And here’s their arrival:

The three kings

From left to right we have Baltasar, Gaspar & Mechior, who according to the Spanish tradition hail from the Middle East, the Himalayas & Nubia (between Egypt and Sudan) respectively. I really enjoy this tradition because not only it has more to do with the nativity than Santa Claus, but also because it gives children a chance to get exposed to multiculturalism. The three kings (aka magi or wise men) are supposed to represent the three corners of the world, which in Biblical times meant Asia, Middle East & Africa. So all the clothes, music, props, evoked the cultures of that part of the world. In homogeneous Spain, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It was also quite fun to watch the kids clenching their letters addressed to “SS Majestades los Reyes” address “Oriente”.

We watched the kings disembark and then we went to Via Laietana to wait for the parade, during which the kings and their retinue were supposed to distribute 15 tons of candy. Here are a few more shots.

Kings greeting the mayorExciting childStar of BethlehemAngelsFriendly helpers




If you want to read more on Santa Claus vs Los Reyes, here’s a campaign in favour of the three kings (in spanish): click here

Cabalgata de los Reyes de Oriente

The wise men will arrive at the Portal de la Pau, near the Columbus statue at the old port of Barcelona at precisely 5:30 pm. At 6:30 they´ll start the parade around the city, acompanied by a royal retinue of 900 people including artists, volunteers, municipal police & students from music & dance schools.

The theme of this year´s parade is science & magic, to mark the Year of Science. According to El País, despite being considered magicians, the three kings are also eminent scientists and plan to perform magic tricks while sharing with the kids their knowledge of physics, mathematics & chemistry.

More info on the parade at the City of Barcelona website

Santa Claus vs the three Wise men, pt II

And for a quick update. The big parade is friday night and, as I said on my previous post about it, it happens in most towns of Spain. Well, it seems some took this whole conflict with Santa Claus a bit seriously – I read yesterday that Valencia prohibited any Santa from showing up at its Cabalgada de los Reyes. The kids can wear whatever they like, but no red suits.

It feels a bit surreal for Alan and I to walk downtown. Here we are, enjoying some post-Christmas blues, but as soon as we hit downtown we realize it ain’t over yet baby. All the stores are packed and opening extra hours (even during siesta!). It’s the week before Christmas all over again!!!

Of course, we won’t miss the parade on friday. Stay tuned for that.

Santa Claus vs the three Wise men

Christmas in Spain has been a nice surprise. Coming from a Catholic country that was colonized by an Iberian state, I assumed Christmas here would be much the same as back home. Or at least more similar, with Christmas being celebrated on Dec 24th, for example.

I couldn’t be further from the truth. At first you think it’s much like in the rest of the wold. Streets, houses and stores are decorated with lights. People run back and forth trying to get gifts. Most flee the city to spend it with their families in their country homes. They all plan on gorging on as much food as possible. Check, check, check, double check!

When you look at it more closely, however, you notice the differences.

Take Santa Claus for example. In the western world, we all assume he is intrinsic to Christmas. Some people complain that we’ve moved away from the original meaning of Christmas as a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ, to a purely commercial event symbolized by Santa and his gifts. He is even in Brazil, where he looks quite odd wearing his winter clothes in the middle of the summer. But in Brazil he doesn’t arrive on a sledge – how could he? there’s no snow! – but rather on a helicopter! Anyways, here in Spain Santa isn’t very big. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that Spanish kids don’t get their gifts. The exchange of gifts is the same and kids write letters. But not to Santa. They write to the three Wise men (aka the Magi or the three kings) who, according to the Christian story, visited Mary and the baby Jesus bearing gifts.

To be faithful to the story, therefore, the big exchage of gifts doesn’t happen on Dec 25 but rather on January 6th, the day of Epiphany, or Twelth Night. On January 5th most Spanish towns celebrate the Cabalgata de los Reyes, when the three kings arrive in the town and the children go out to see them and ask for gifts. It’s kind of like the Santa Claus parade in Norh America.

Here’s what happens in Barcelona:

“On 5 January every year, the evening before Twelfth Night (Epiphany, 6 January) the Thee Kings (or Three Wise Men of the New Testament) arrive by boat at the waterfront of Barcelona (Moll de la Fusta) to be greeted by the Mayor of the city and conducted to the nearby park of Ciutadella. From there the Three Kings depart in their carriages, the principal part of a grand parade that proceeds slowly through the streets and avenues of the centre towards the Olympic Stadium. The Kings and other participants in the parade throw barley sugar sweets and other candies to the children lining the route. There are many stalls along the way, especially along Gran Via. The days leading up to the parade allow the opportunity for children to inspect the Three Kings’ boat and carriages, and to leave messages requesting gifts, which they (and adults, too) receive, traditionally, on 6 January”

I think it’s a really nice tradition. I mean, it does make more sense and it preserves more of the Biblical story. At least it keeps Christ part of Christmas, because to explain who the three wise men are, you need to talk about Christ. But like everything else that is more local, this is being threatened by globalization as more and more Spanish kids want to get their gifts on Dec 25th… Some do both Santa & los reyes.[update: they’ve just said in the local news that 2 in every 5 Spanish kids get gifts on both dates] I hope they don’t lose their tradition.

Fore more Spanish Christmas holiday traditions see here.

To illustrate the central role of the three wise men within Christmas tradition here, I leave you with a picture of our milk box:

The three wise cows

Stay tuned for a post on a unique Catalan traditions – the caganer & the caga-tio:


Lisbon, here we come!!

Lisbon at Christmas

The main plan when we first got to Barcelona was to spend the year here for my dissertation research and then move on to Lisbon when I finished my degree to research a second project there. But then we fell in love with Barcelona and, suddenly, my second project in Lisbon didn’t sound so good anymore. I needed to find ways of staying in Barcelona. Who cares about Portugal?

Well, fate is funny and it has it that many of our good friends here have lived in Lisbon and they all LOVE it. Jackie & Sebastian lived there and they introduced us to many of their Lisbon friends who come for a visit. Naomi was there last week and loved it. Suddenly the interest to go to Portugal rekindled and we have booked our flight for a long weekend in december. We leave Dec 8th and come back on the 12th. Can’t wait!!!