While the last party poppers and empty cava bottles of 2013 were cleared away by Madrid’s refuse collectors yesterday morning, Christmas lights still festoon the streets, carols continue to blare out in shopping malls and Spanish children are still eagerly awaiting the arrival on Sunday night of the Three Kings, bearing gifts for well-behaved youngsters – and lumps of coal for those who are not.
This weekend marks the last round of Spain’s seasonal celebrations, culminating in the Three Kings processions on Sunday evening when Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar miraculously appear in multiple locations across Spain, riding either camels or, where squeezed council budgets dictate, tractor-drawn floats.
As they pass, the kings and their assistants fling huge quantities of boiled sweets at the public, many of whom bring umbrellas, either to protect their heads from the rain of flying confectionery or to scoop it up.
Then on Monday, a holiday, at special church services in the smaller towns and villages, the Kings sit next to the altar and call up each child by name to receive their presents. After which, at last, the Christmas decorations go back in their boxes, and Spain finally gets back to normal.