I think the biggest difference between Christmas in most Northern European / American countries and Christmas in Spain / Latin America resides in one night: Twelfth Night. Tonight. La Noche de Reyes or La Vispera de Reyes. The night before the Epiphany, the night before "Kings' Day". The night before January 6th.
Tonight (Jan 5) and tomorrow (Jan 6) marks the end of the Christmas holidays. Tonight man families are having another Christmas dinner and exchanging gifts. Either tonight or tomorrow people will be eating a "Roscón de Reyes" (typical sweetbread, click on the name for more info) and whoever finds the bean in their slice will be crowned King or Queen. I can't find a photo of my own of a Roscón, but a quick Google image search turns up many candidates:
Tonight children all over Spain and Latin American will be putting out their shoes and hoping they've been good enough for the Three Kings to leave them a present instead of a lump of coal. This evening the Three Kings (or Three Wise Men, your preference!) have made a grand entry into many Spanish cities, either by boat, helicopter, camel, horse or on a parade float. They've paraded around the cities cheered on by the children watching them and they've handed out sweets and small toys and they've visited local hospitals giving presents to sick children there. I wrote a post two years ago about the Cabalgata de Reyes ("The Kings' Ride") here in Alicante. I didn't have time today to go see the parade, so I'll just have to refer you back to that post.
Even though we're past the age of wondering about the Three Kings, in my family we still keep up one "Kings" tradition that has to do with the Belén... we help them make their way to Bethlehem! Moving them just a little bit closer every day after December 25th:
And now they're there!
And since we're heading out to spend the day with my Grandmother and Aunts and Cousins in Valencia tomorrow, the Belén gets a reprieve and won't be taken down until Saturday. We got a headstart and took the tree down today though.
So now you know, you'd better watch out twice! 'Cause Santa's not the only one keeping an eye out for boys' and girls' behaviour! ;o)
FELIZ DÍA DE REYES!