The three wise men are a tradition in Catalonia and Spain and in some other parts of the world but what some people don't know yet is where they come from. The three kings arrived in Jerusalem from Orient to adore baby Jesus that was recently born, each one of them brought an offering with them: gold, myrrh, and incense.

Nowadays, they keep on visiting all houses to offer them presents if they have been good that year otherwise they will get sugar coal, a typical sweet from Christmas times. As well as Santa Claus, the three wise men arrival is a big time of the year, although they come at night while children are sleep in every house they are left with some water for their camels, and some food for them to taste before heading to the next home.

Three wise men traditions

On 6th January every year in Catalonia we celebrate the three wise men, three kings that bring presents to children and adults every year. Everything starts on the 5th January with the three wise men parade, they go around the city giving sweets and showing their carousels.

The children need to write their letters to the three wise men before the 6th January so they can get what they wished for, the last chance to give them your letter is in the same parade. The kings have pages that collect the last letters and share the sweets, every child has a favorite king, the ginger, the blonde and the black one.

They arrive in Barcelona every year by boat in Port Vell and they are welcomed to Barcelona by the mayor. Around 18 hours is when the "cabalgata" starts and takes around 3 hours and goes from Avinguda Rius i Taulet to Avinguda Reina Maria Cristina.

The cabalgata is one of the big events for the little ones, since they get to see the kings and collect sweets to bring home, it is a good show of color, dance and music and it goes around different places of the city.

The three wise men are: 

  • Melchor: white hair and beard
  • Gaspar: the ginger king
  • Baltasar: the black king, it is one of the children's favorites

Families have lunch together on the 6th January, the food on the 6th is nothing set but the dessert is, it is called Roscón de Reyes. The Roscón is a sort of sponge cake with crystallized fruit on top. There are surprises hidden inside the cake, there is a bean hidden and who gets it is supposed to pay the cake, if you get a figurine then you are the lucky one and you get the king's crown that goes with the cake.

roscón de reyes barcelona

Disclaimer: Roscón de reyes picture by Roger Ferrer, header picture three wise men by Ajuntament Vilanova