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.
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.
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.
Officially the fiesta starts on Thursday afternoon with a church service, but none of the real action heats up until pre-dawn on Friday. It’s at this point that you know you’re in a fiesta. It begins much like how retarded people have sex; abruptly at 5:00am, violently, with eardrum shattering explosions, and bright flashes of light, followed by 6 hours of utter silence. Okay I admit that I’ve never actually seen retarded people having sex, but that’s how I imagine it would be when I fantasize think about it.
A vociferous marching band complete with all of the accessories that a college football halftime show would include, begins in the center of town and winds its way through the narrow, echoing, white-washed streets. Every fifty feet they come to a screeching halt and a man in a fireproof suit begins setting off fifty shooting M-80’s. They are like bottle rockets on steroids. This is a tradition done to ward off evil spirits, because they can’t have the evil spirits screwing up the drunken revelry and debauchery of the three day party. Having nowhere else to go, the spirits flee into the body of our mini-dachshund who immediately begins shaking, howling, and hiding until deciding to shit on the floor.
This is a very exciting beginning, especially to the newcomers of this tradition. The first year we hurriedly dressed, cleaned up the dog shit, and practically jogged into town. When we got there, it was all but deserted. There were only a few drunks sleeping it off on the park benches, and some hippies who had pitched tents on the cement, and were enjoying their daily wake and bake.
It turns out that nothing happens again until 11:30am when they turn on the wine flow into the town’s main fountain. Since nobody on this planet can turn down free booze, this draws a hefty, exuberant crowd. The wine itself is a potent potable, that if examined by a scientist would probably be classified somewhere between ‘red whiskey’ and ‘flotsam.’ It’s about 40 proof, and if you have more than a couple of Dixie cups full, you’re likely to have to fish your lower intestines out of the toilet the following morning. Luckily there are private bar stands conveniently located every 10 feet so you are never out of arms reach of life sustaining, soul-saving alcohol.
The drinking age here is 16, but never enforced. The other day I saw an eight year old who was unable to change his Transformer back into the truck until he had two double vodkas. Anyway, they also have three rides set up for the teen-alkies. All three spin around in a circle with various degrees of violence. I’ve come to believe that these rides are for the sole purpose of sobering them up, by causing them to upchuck. The puking is usually performed while the ride is in full swing, causing a chain reaction puke marathon. It’s all pretty funny until you get hit in the eye with a piece of vomit.
At 3:30pm they serve a free paella dinner with free beer, and nobody misses this event either. Except us. After last year, I figured out that I actually like my own paella better. Especially because I never get sick off of it. It helps that I don’t leave my sausage sitting in the sun for a couple of hours before cooking it. But this is also a must attend event that can not be missed, if only for a glass (or 17) of cervaza.
At 9:00pm the church doors open and three ginormous statues emerge. Each one is carried by six men. Three of four of whom are over eighty years old, and four of five of whom are half in the bag. They then carry these cumbersome statues up and down the narrow, steep, slippery streets to the church at the other end of the village. What makes this even more difficult (and hilarious) are the utility lines which are hung far too low for this procession. So every hundred feet or so, we get to watch St. Peter, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus himself, perform a very drunken, shaky limbo. In the two years that I’ve watched this I’ve seen Jesus (he’s the tallest, with the cross and all) almost wipe out and take a cache of bystanders with him.
I’m going to publish the conclusion to this post on Wednesday, since it’s so long with so many photos, and hopefully video to follow. I’ve saved my favorite part for then, so stay tuned!!