Updated: Jan 12, 2022
I first traveled to Sevilla, España–or Seville, Spain, the light blue portion of this map–in the spring of 2016 as an undergraduate student at St Olaf. I lived with a host family. I returned to Spain in the fall of 2017 as a language assistant in Madrid. On January 5th of 2018, I found myself in Sevilla once again. I traveled to Sevilla to stay with my host family for a week in January, and they took me to the famous cabalgata (parade) of los reyes magos (the three kings) on the 5th of January, where the three kings (Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar) pass through Sevilla on floats while gifting candy to the crowd.
The cabalgata can last up to three hours as the floats parade through town. In the United
States, collecting candy at a parade is usually left up to kids, but in Spain it’s an intergenerational event! My host parents gave me a plastic bag so I could join the masses in collecting candy. People of all ages lined the sidewalks with their bags or upside down umbrellas in hand to get their share of candy. What I was not prepared for was the fact that the people on the floats will sometimes pelt people with the hard candies they distribute. If you’re not careful, you can get a hard caramelo candy to the eye!
After the floats are over, the children leave out food for the three kings (similar to Santa Claus) and go to bed hoping for gifts if they were put on the nice list or to be surprised with coal if they were put on the naughty list. After they open presents in the morning, they enjoy
a sobremesa which is a three-course meal during lunchtime. Spaniards eat their largest meal at lunch, from 2-5 pm, and enjoy a light dinner from 9-10 pm. After the sobremesa, they typically eat a roscón!
Roscones are a donut-shaped sweet dough pastry with candied fruit on top. They also come filled with vanilla or chocolate whipped cream. Each person gets a wedge of the roscón. If you bite into a dried bean, you have to pay for next year’s roscón! The first and last time I enjoyed this tradition, I bit into a hard bean and owed my host family the following year’s pastry.
The cabalgata celebration brings a variety of people out from all over the city to enjoy the coming of the three kings. This celebration of the Epiphany season recognizes not only the humanity of Christ, but also his divinity as the real presence of God among the Earth.