- Title: SPAIN: Thousands line streets in Madrid for traditional Three Kings Parade
- Date: 6th January 2009
- Summary: PERFORMERS OF THE THREE KINGS PARADE MECHANICAL ELEPHANTS
- Embargoed: 21st January 2009 12:00
- Location: Spain
- Country: Spain
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVADNH6HG5LIMEU8XMAORMMDM4O0
- Story Text: Thousands of children and families in Madrid celebrate the traditional Three Kings Parade Madrid's streets were lined with thousands of eager onlookers of all ages there to watch the annual Three Kings Parade on Monday (January 05) The parade is celebrated every year on the eve of what is traditionally one of the most important date in Spain's festive Christmas calendar, "el Dia de los Reyes Magos" (Three Kings Day), and during the event sweets and other small presents are thrown to the watching crowds from floats and by street performers walking alongside them.
Coming twelve days after Christmas, Three Kings Day represents the culmination of the Christmas festivities and the arrival of gifts and presents that will be distributed, if children are good, during the early hours of the following day.
"The Three Kings are those that went to Bethlehem to see when the child (Jesus) was born. What they do every year is, during the night of January the fifth to the sixth, make all the children happy, they bring them what they asked for," said Rodrigo, one of those watching the spectacular parade, which this year was lead by three mechanical elephants.
The Three Kings have been visiting Spanish children for generation. The town of Alcoy in Alicante boasts of the first recorded parade in 1866, and the tradition remains strong despite the ever greater influence of Father Christmas or Santa Claus.
Otherwise known as the Epiphany, Three Kings Day commemorates the arrival of the three wise men, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar who travelled from afar, following a star to Bethlehem, to see the new-born baby Jesus and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The lay custom of giving gifts and toys to children on January 06 dates back to the 19th century.
There are certain things that must be done to ensure that the modern day Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar stop at your house, including putting your shoes out for the presents and leaving something for the kings and their camels.
"Be good and leave some sweets and some milk under the Christmas tree so that they take it," said Maria, a Spanish girl watching the parade.
More than half of all Spaniards continue to exchange presents on Three Kings Day, in contrast to a minority who prefer to go with Father Christmas, because the children can enjoy more time with their presents during the seasonal holidays.
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