Zodi’s Blog

The Three Kings

       

Tuesday night featured my favorite fiesta of the entire year, the Three Kings. Every other fiesta is basically an elaborate excuse for the town to get shit-faced plastered for 2, 3, or even four days straight. They are fun in their own right, but they do get old after awhile. The scientific definition of awhile being…. after having to pick up old men from wherever they’d fallen, yelling at people for pissing on the house, and watching everyone between the ages of 14 and 20 throwing up almost nonstop.      

The Three Kings fiesta is unique in the fact that it’s all about the ninos. I’m not saying that no one drinks….or smokes pot….or does ecstasy, that would be anathema here, but for once the partying is not the focal point, the kids are. The children here really only know Santa Clause as the fat, white, alcoholic American that he is. I think that most of them think that he is actually the ghost of Hemmingway. They’re really not that far off the mark, are they? It’s only been in the last 10 or 15 years that they’ve started receiving a token present on Christmas morning. For them, the mother lode is during the Three Kings (or Los Reyes fiesta.) This is held on either the night of January 5th or 6th. And all the kids and most of the adults become unhinged in the revelry.      

The day is also referred to as the Feast of the Epiphany and the festivities start out in the Spanish home with paella and 7 courses of fish dishes. There is also a desert made especially for the occasion called Rosco de reyes which is a ginormous donut shaped cake filled with delicious cream. Unfortunately, they only make it for this occasion or I’d eat it everyday.      

Torches

  

The children’s anticipation and excitement continue to build all day until it is finally released in frenetic, ear piercing shrieks of pandemonium. Which surprisingly, the kids can hold for a good 5 hours.      

Finally the stretching and very slow procession begins with the youngest of the children who are wearing both costumes of monks and priests as well as slightly dazed expressions. They are each holding either a sparkler or a flaming torch which is about twice the size of them. There is also a man among the first group who is letting off flying M-80’s every 10 seconds or so to ward off evil spirits. It also helps my dog to piss on the floor.      

Next is a cache of adolescent girls dressed as…..actually no one that I’ve asked seems to know. But they are wearing some type of cool ass costume and using their spears to drop a beat to their medieval sounding, thunderous chanting of “long live the king.” The girls are the entourage of King Melchor who is riding a jet black horse and who I presume was the king from Arabia, based on the Spanish legend of the story and the girls’ outfits. Some of them had the crescent moon of Islam with two swords crossing it. It’s at this point that you have to start ducking. You see, there are boys on horseback in the middle and back of the procession whose sole purpose is to throw hard candy into the crowd. The thing is, all these little fuckers could close for the Yankees. I’m talking about a 90mph fastball to the grill. If you get hit in the face it hurts… a lot. The old ladies in the crowd are carrying grocery bags and will literally throw you an elbow if you get between them and their free sweets.      

        

Next comes the army of King Gazpar, all dressed as Roman soldiers and beating another rhythm out by slamming their swords against their shield in time with chants of, “The King has come!” King Gazpar is riding a brown horse and if you can get a glimpse of him without getting pelted by molted sugar, you will see that he is tossing small trinket toys into the crowds. Now with a sugar buzz firmly in place by both the infantile and the elderly, the tease of the little presents and the approach of the last king, the place is in a delirious stupor of derangement.       

Lastly comes the Moorish King Baltasar on a white horse and with his posse. They are all in full blackface. The PC thing hasn’t really caught on over here, but then again they don’t have as bad of a history regarding these things. His soldiers’ main function is to distract the children so that the parents can covertly load up the king’s saddle bags with the real gifts for their children. This is done every 15 feet…. ad nauseum. King Baltasar then hands out the gifts to the delighted squeals and shrieks of the kids. The procession goes through most of the streets of the town for about 5 hours before stopping in the town hall to continue the festivities until at least daylight.      

The beginning of the procession

  

 I’d think that the whole thing would be as intimidating as hell to the younger kids, but I guess not. I didn’t even see any of the babies or toddlers crying. Every one of them was in a perpetual state of awed bliss! There is nothing better in life than seeing children at their happiest, and this was the happiest that I’ve ever seen any group of children. Ever.         

I apologize for the quality of the video. It was taken with a normal camera which was also very low on battery to boot. Next year, I’ll have and use a proper video camera. But honestly, this is one fiesta that you really do have to experience for yourself if you ever get the opportunity.

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January 8, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

35 Comments »

  1. Looks like fun. Thanks for the Anthropology 101. I think Hallmark owns all of our holidays on this side of the ‘pond.’ Great on site reportage Scott.

    Comment by fundamentaljelly | January 8, 2010 | Reply

    • It was fun. The funnest fiesta by far. I only wish that I had a better camera and a video camera. Or that my own camera didn’t run out of battery.

      Thanks FJ!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  2. Wow! What a scream!

    Comment by Micky-T | January 8, 2010 | Reply

    • There was a ton of screaming indeed.

      Thanks Micky!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  3. it kind of sounded like “schamell, schamozzell..” what ever the Laverne & Shirley song was. Yes, I’m old – lol

    Comment by Reb | January 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Hey, I watched Laverne and Shirley as well, and I’m definitely not old! Although I do speak some Spanish, I couldn’t understand what the hell they were chanting; I had to ask other Spanish….and I think they were guessing as well.

      Thanks Reb!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  4. My mom is OBSESSED with the Three Kings. Kings Gaspar, Malchoir and Balthasser. She gave all 5 of her children a laminated prayer to be said three times to the Holy Magi.

    If you go into any of out homes, as well as hers, you will find MANY displays of the three kings in different places. She believes they are the bearers of good fortune.
    She even bought me a set to put in my new store:)

    If we were there with you my moms and I would SO be at the fiesta with you.

    Comment by Candy | January 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Candy, I had such a surprisingly hard time getting the facts straight for this one. I went with the Spanish spelling of the names, that part was ok. But even trying to talk to the Spanish in this village was difficult because most of them didn’t really know why they did what they did, tradition wise. Some people said the three kings came from Europe, Northern Africa and Arabia, while others said Europe, Africa and Asia. It seemed like there were Roman soldiers with the Arabian and African King, while the ones with the black face seemed to be escorting the king from Europe. And even though almost everyone I talked to from here believed the third was from Arabia, it looked like Asian writing on his banner. Even trying to research the tradition on the web was so convoluted with different stories and traditions. I’m catholic but I can’t really remember the way I was taught. I’d be very interested in what you were taught….if you have a minute to tell me????

      Thanks Candy!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  5. That’s pretty freaking wild. All of your festivals seem pretty cool, but like you said, this one really kicks ass. I would love to see it in person.

    Comment by Jay | January 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Yea, you’ll have to come over here and visit me sometime and check out one of these fiestas. I know you’d love them!

      Thanks Jay!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  6. Great description! Wish I’d been there.

    Comment by Pamela Villars | January 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Like I’ve said, we love visitors so come over if you ever get the chance.

      Thanks Pamela!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  7. Holy whatever! That was truly amazing, Scott, and like another planet. They had a Three Kings celebration at a nearby hall, and the papers covered it, and all I can say is ZZZZZZZZZZ . . . it was nothing like what they probably were trying to emulate, and was over between 8:00 and 8:30. Amazing and thanks for the footage. Your descriptions and analogies were hysterical (Santa as drunk Hemingway). Damn, you’re having an adventure — thanks for sharing with us boring hermits in the hills!!!

    Comment by Dan McGinley | January 9, 2010 | Reply

    • It does seem like another planet over here at times. The Spanish are so incredibly laid back when it comes to problems, but have such an incredible zest for life when it comes to family, eating, partying or really any celebration. But it is all based around family. It’s a great way to live your life!

      Thanks Dan!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 9, 2010 | Reply

      • Scott, my little girl just watched the videos and fired off a hundred questions about Three Kings in Spain. The lights and flashes revealed building faces, and her first question was, “That style is from another era, like medieval.” The kid floors me . . . thanks again for a fantastic adventure, and flattering feedback to my developing story. I’ve got to write you into this thing, in a very good way. We’re gonna laugh our asses over this in Spain some day.

        Comment by Dan McGinley | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  8. Cool celebration. And I want some of that dessert too

    Comment by nursemyra | January 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Yea, I’d bet you’d absolutly love it!

      Thanks Nursemyra!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  9. This is awesome Scott. It reminds me of when I was in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (btw I didn’t find out until two years after out how to correctly spell it).

    It makes you wonder why the kids in North America who start bawling their eyes out when they have to sit on Santa’s lap are such pussies, hey?(Me being one of said kids.)

    Comment by bschooled | January 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Some of the South American celebrations of the Three Kings get even crazier than they do here. Especially Brazil, from what I’ve heard.

      I know…..right? Santa just like…sits there. Sure he may smell like a grain alcohol distillery, may throw up in a bucket beside his chair, and may possibly even grope you, but that’s nothing compared to the chaotic revelry of this. If I were a little kid, I think I would have been scared out of my freaking mind.

      Thanks B!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 10, 2010 | Reply

  10. Great to see some European culture,I really miss it. Reminds of a place called Enna in Sicily. They have a Easter festival where the men walk through the village in black hoods similar to the KKK. Lucky I don’t scare easily 🙂

    Comment by frigginloon | January 9, 2010 | Reply

    • I used to go to Italy while my dad was still alive, up until I was around 13. I’d stay in a small town called Potenza, but I do remember something similar to what you descibed. I love Europe!

      Thanks Frigginloon!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 10, 2010 | Reply

  11. My Puerto Rican friends are totally obsessed with Three Kings Day.

    Glad you had a good holiday Scott.

    Comment by David | January 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Yea, Spain, Italy and most of South America are. I guess you could say it’s mostly the hard core catholics. It was a great time though. I wouldn’t mind seeing less commercialism and more of this type of thing in the states.

      Thanks David!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 10, 2010 | Reply

  12. Sounds like a blast, Scott. Thanks for yet another peek at how crazy-ass foreigners earn the nickname “crazy-ass foreigners” from insular beings such as myself.

    This passage in particular hit me hard, right in the LOL:

    “There is also a man among the first group who is letting off flying M-80’s every 10 seconds or so to ward off evil spirits. It also helps my dog to piss on the floor.”

    My only cohesive thought was: maybe your dog expells evil spirits through his bladder.

    Comment by Capitalist Lion Tamer | January 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Holy shit (and piss) CLT, I think you are on to something. Right before he does it, he does look kind of possessed. He has a crazy gleam to his glassy eyed stare, his whole nine pound body starts to shake like an industrial paint mixer and he sometimes howls. I wonder if I should call in the local exorcist? Nah, they’d probably just want to kill him. They can’t understand why we keep a dog inside the house to begin with. They can’t understand that he’s a dog and not a super-rat or deformed cat either for that matter.

      Thanks CLT!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 10, 2010 | Reply

  13. That is way cool. Happy kids and my love for religin and history wrapped into one. I dig that.

    And by the way…

    “Santa Claus…he is actually the ghost of Hemmingway.” Ha. Funny Stuff. Cheers Scott!!

    Comment by Matt-Man | January 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Oh man, you’d love it Matt. You gotta try to make it over here with your son while I’m still here. You’d love these little villages, steeped in tradition that in some cases is a thousand years old.

      Thanks Matt-Man!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  14. That’s awesome, and proves once again that fire equals fun. It’s not as awesome as “Santa Clause is actually the ghost of Hemingway.”

    Comment by Ramblin' Rooster | January 10, 2010 | Reply

    • I’ve always said; “Fire is just about the most fun you can have with matches or a lighter.” Think about it; fire equals grilled food, fireworks, bonfires, marshmallows, warmth, hot water, smores, those delicious sandwich maker thingy’s that you put in the coals, and watching beer bottles slowly melt. Good times indeed!

      Thanks Rooster!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  15. my mom always called it ‘Little Christmas’ – I’m not sure where she got that from
    maybe the voices told her

    I love the correlation between Santa and the ghost of Hemingway

    Comment by dianne | January 11, 2010 | Reply

    • “Little Christmas’ is pretty damn cool. Over here, and most of Europe and some of the Middle East it’s definitely Big Christmas. On Christmas day they keep it pretty strictly religious. The Three Kings is the gift giving/party/feast day. I love it!

      Thanks Dianne!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  16. What I was taught, as a Catholic, is this: The Three Kings or “The Biblical Magi” were the Kings who came bearing gifts to the newborn.

    Wiki says:”In Christian tradition, the Magi (pronounced /ˈmeɪdʒaɪ/; Greek: μάγοι, magoi), also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men, (Three) Kings, or Kings from the East, are a group of distinguished foreigners who are said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity and in celebrations of Christmas.

    The Gospel of Matthew,[1] the only one of the four Gospels to mention the Magi, states that they came “from the east” to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews”. Although the account does not tell how many they were, the three gifts led to a widespread assumption that they were three as well.[2] Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is linked to Old Testament prophesies such as that in Isaiah 60:3, which describe the Messiah being worshipped by kings.”

    My mom, again, believes they are the bearers of good fortune, The prayer she gave us is entitled “Amost efficacious Prayer” (to be said three times) which we do. It is a plea for blessings from Mary, Joseph, and the Holy Magi. Seems to be workin for us….;)

    Comment by Candy | January 11, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you so much Candy! I did remember most of the biblical account as well as the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, as well as some of the other stuff….like meeting with King Herod and following the star. But I couldn’t believe all the differences in the stories and traditions and that no one even here really seemed to know why they do exactly what they do. My mind never stops sometimes. I’m like a little kid and want to know WHY!

      Again, thanks so much, you are a star!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  17. Wow, kids have tremendous capacity for all things seemingly too violent for…well kids. All that screaming! If children ruled the world, they’d set everything straight with their sheer tenacity and screaming:)
    That was quite an interesting commentary Scott…what’s up with that 2nd blog idea? One to document the life in Spain as it is through your eyes..and the other where your imagination runs wild! More work though.

    Comment by The Juicer | January 12, 2010 | Reply

    • They would set the world straight all right, I picture something along the lines of Lord of the Flies.

      I am actually setting up a new website about the area. I’m interviewing foreigners who have moved here, writing about how they are making a living, what their lives are now like etc, etc… I’m going to advertise for local businesses as well as write an ebook about how to move to Spain (bureaucratically) and how to buy a house in Spain. I’ll transfer some of the more positive posts from here, over to there once I get it up and running.

      Great idea Juicer, and thanks for the comment!!

      Comment by Scott Oglesby | January 13, 2010 | Reply


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