The holidays are over and I’m a little bit sad. It’s not that I do so much celebrating. I don’t go to any parties or dinners; I exchange very few gifts and those are through the mail, and some of those gifts, even when mailed a month ahead, don’t arrive until the holidays are over ... or never arrive at all. The Spanish postal system isn’t particularly efficient, but Spanish customs is a either corrupt or completely incompetent.
But all that isn’t what makes me sad. It’s the ending of the street lights that gets me down. My evening walk with the dog is far more joyful for the six weeks or so that the streets are lit up with lights and decorations. The day after Kings, all that is over. Finished. Zip. Dark.
Speaking of Kings, January 6 is as special here as Christmas, maybe more so, especially for children. Because it isn’t Santa Claus that brings them gifts, it’s the Three Kings. And not only that, but the Kings arrive in town (whatever city, town, or village you live in) the night before, on the 5th, and there is a big parade and they throw candy and stuff.
During the week before their arrival, the Kings’ pages set up encampments where they receive the children and their letters. Kids can also deliver their letters to the post office – the same service that Santa gets in other places. Hopefully those letters get delivered in time, unlike my Christmas presents.
In some towns, especially along the coast where is a sandy beach, and a healthy city budget to pay for it, the Kings might arrive by camel. In other towns along the coast they sometimes arrive by boat, as in Barcelona and Tarragona. In some they come by train and in others by helicopter. But whatever transportation method they use, once there they have a big parade with lots of floats, street performers, marching drum bands, very loud music and through it all they throw candy and confetti.
Figueres made animal
welfare a feature of their Calvalcada de Reis a few years ago so
there are no longer any of the live camels, horses, or donkeys that
used to parade down the street. I suppose that’s good for the
animals, although I didn’t think the horses or donkeys were having
a hard time of it. Cynical me, I wonder if it isn’t that their
clean-up crews didn’t want to have to deal with the aftermath of
large, live animals parading up and down the streets and standing in
front of the city hall. If it was the loud music that bothered the
animals, well hey, it bothers some of the people too and they could
just as well have turned down the volume and kept the animals away
from that drum band.
There isn’t much that will get me out to stand still for almost an hour on a cold, dark, winter night. Figueres city government has managed to get rid of the starlings that used to do their magnificent ballets in the winter sky at dusk, so now all that is left is the one evening of the Calvalcada de Reis.
On the morning of
the 6th children get their presents and adults tuck in to
the tortell de reis and cava (Catalan sparkling wine). The tortell
is a semi-dry pastry decorated with candied fruit that is
traditionally filled with marzipan but can also be found stuffed with
whipped or pastry cream. Somewhere in the filling will be two little
items: one is a figure of a king and the other a fava bean. Whoever
finds the king in his slice gets to wear the crown and whoever finds
the bean gets to pay for the pastry.