The Three Kings Parade in Barcelona
Last Saturday I had an unexpectedly fun experience when I attended the Barcelona Three Kings Parade with my wife and her family. The Three Kings Day isn’t a holiday I’d ever heard of before marrying Laia, but for those of you who don’t know, the tradition is somewhat like Christmas, in that children write a letter to old, bearded men who then sneak into their homes and leave gifts for them. Kind of creepy now that I think about it.
Anyhow, the Three Kings Day takes place Jan 6 in most Spanish speaking cultures. As the story goes, the kings come from the Orient on their camels just to bring presents for youngsters. In Barcelona they arrive by boat in the Barcelona harbor, where they give a speech with the mayor of the city, and then are transported by fancy old cars to the start of the parade route, which is quite extensive and runs all throughout the city.
I was able to witness the boat coming into port along with the masses of children and their parents. I missed the speech, but was able to catch a glimpse of the kings as they departed in their fancy cars flanked by horse-bound police officers. Many of the various characters whom are part of the parade also preceded the kings as they set off for the start of the parade.
I’ve seen the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC a number of times as I live in the neighborhood in which that parade starts and I’d have to say the Barcelona Three Kings Parade gives it a run for it’s money, but without all the massive balloons. Unlike the Thanksgiving parade, the Kings parade is entirely set around a theme of “Hey kids, did you write the letters? The kings are coming! Go to sleep, it’s bedtime!”
The streets were jammed packed with exhilarated kids and equally trilled parents excited to share this tradition with their young ones. Barcelona is a city with many multi-story apartments, most of which have balconies. Adults and kids alike were in nearly every window as the parade made its way down the streets. Many residents with the higher balconies provided homemade confetti and kept a constant flurry streaming from above. Those who didn’t have confetti just threw rolls of toilet paper which became streamers coming from the sky.
The entire parade lasted about an hour and consisted of monster floats, the biggest being those that carried the kings. There were also bands and buses and horses and, my favorite, many characters with baskets either tethered to their backs or on long polls that could be reached out into crowds to collect last minute letters written by children to the kings listing all the presents they desired.
If you ever find yourself in Barcelona during this holiday, I recommend attending, especially with children. It’s worth the wait and fun for adults too.