Thursday, May 15, 2014

Día de los Reyes and Carnaval, Two Holidays with One Stone

This post is long overdue, months overdue, back in January overdue...I am hiding this behind my "students have their English exam next week" excuse.  But seriously.  Apologies for Trinity exams consuming my life for the past few months.

La Cabalgata in Santander

Anyway, now to bore you with an informational post, my "B".  One of the greatest parts of living in Spain with a native Spaniard, and working at a Spanish school is that I get to experience many Spanish holidays quite authentically.  Two such holidays this year were: Día de los Reyes and Carnaval.

Día de los Reyes

Our "USA meets Spain" Reyes presents
Día de los Reyes, or Day of the Kings, is celebrated January 6th in honor of the day the Three Wise Men are thought to have 'beheld' baby Jesus after he was born.  In Spain this holiday is in many ways quite similar to how Christmas is celebrated for children in the USA, as it is traditionally the Magi that bring them holiday presents and not Santa Claus.  They're incredibly popular and if you ask many Spaniards they always had a favorite growing up (Balthasar is in particular quite popular among my friends).

To celebrate the arrival of the kings to Spain on January 5th, most cities hold a typical parade known as the Cabalgata de Reyes Magos that welcomes them into the city.  The parade I saw in Santander had different floats, trucks, and even sheep (who doesn't love a herd of sheep wandering through a city)!

Near the end of the parade the kings finally arrived on their own floats and are followed by different fire trucks and delivery trucks that "help bring the children their presents".  Later the Magi walked around the city distributing candy to any little children, which was absolutely adorable to see...and I maybe asked for candy too...maybe...
Our Roscón de Reyes
As it's celebrated on the 6th, this is the day where most Spanish children receive most (if not all) of their holiday presents.  For their breakfast celebration it's typical to have a special cake called a roscón (similiar to a fruitcake, but tastier!), which can even be filled with different things like cream or chocolate.

What makes the roscón so special is that inside there's often a small toy that's been hidden inside, sometimes even a bean.  If you find the toy you are proclaimed the 'king/queen of the day' but if you find the bean in your piece then you're supposed to pay for next year's cake.  This year in the cake the BF and I bought for ourselves I found the prize, which was a tiny turtle!  Though it did help that I devoured most of it...


Carnaval is a great holiday for Auxiliares because we get to celebrate it with our students.  It celebrates the time before lent with a hugeee party (think Río and Mardi Gras), but in Spain there's more child-friendly activities than 'earning' beads.

In my schools the children got to do a lot of fun activities preparing themselves for a big parade at the end of the week.  The theme for the year was art so all the students made costumes depicting different artists and aspects of art like: crayons, colored pencils, paintbrushes, and even the melting clocks of Dalí.  The teachers even had their own costumes to parade around with the students.  As you can see I was a beautiful painting.

At the school they had El Entierro de la Sardina or "The Burial of the Sardine" which is a Spanish tradition that one of our teachers explained as symbolizing the end of Carnaval by burying the past in hopes of a better future after fasting during Lent.  The sixth grade students and their teachers all wore black and paraded around 'mourning' as the fun of Carnaval ended and Lent was about to begin.

Celebrating El Greco
Our 'Sardine' was a large, colorful, paper Sardine that was actually burned instead of buried and when that sucker finally went up in smoke everyone cheered for the end of the celebration (or maybe just that it was time to go home for a nice long puente).

Later that weekend there was a parade in Madrid capital that we watched with my BF's parents who were visiting from Santander.  Instead of having a tradition 'Carnaval' theme, the parade was designed to celebrate El Greco (as this year marks since the artist's death) along other important, particularly Spanish, artists.

Las Meninas
The various floats and displays featured works ranging from El Greco himself, to Bosch, Velázquez, Picasso, Goya, and even Andy Warhol.  Between the floats there were also various performances of cultural groups from different areas of Central and South America.  Even though I've celebrated Carnaval once before in Spain (read as going out with friends in costumes), this was the first time I had seen any kind of parade.  Even though it wasn't "traditional" Carnaval, the art nerd in me was still impressed by a lot of the floats.

It's definitely a unique feeling to be a part of another culture's holidays, but I've also found that experiencing these holidays now that I'm living and working here has helped me learn a lot about Spain and its history, and also feel a little bit less like the "token guiri".

What experience have you had with Día de los Reyes or Carnaval?

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