Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

In England we give presents on Christmas Day but in Spain this is put back to January 6th and is called Los Reyes Magos, or the (Three) Magic Kings.  There are a variety of ways in which this is celebrated.  On 4th January myself and a couple of other fathers were coerced into dressing up as Melchor, (obviously me as he is depicted as being blond with blue eyes,) Gaspar, who in this case was six feet two with a fearsome bellow, and Balthasar who was blacked up to represent his supposed origins from down south somewhere.  We went to the nursery where children of up to three years old spend the day and prepared to give out presents.  The kids were terrified when two giants (I’m six feet tall) and a black man dressed in outrageous pantomime costumes entered their classrooms and waved and uttered rubbish in deep bass voices.  The poor things screamed their hearts out and ran for cover, except the oldest class who seemed to understand what was going on although they were very reticent about taking their presents.  We Three Kings left feeling more stressed than the kids and I think we successfully ruined their Reyes Magos and left them emotionally scarred for life. 

The next episode in the Reyes Magos saga here in the Valley of Happiness was on 5th January when it is traditional for the villagers to chip in and buy sweets and small gifts for the children.  These are loaded onto an elaborately decorated trailer behind an equally elaborately decorated small tractor which drives through the village with three pantomime kings aboard throwing the sweets to the children. 

Decorated Reyes Tractor

Decorated Reyes Tractor

Our office is in the church square and this is where the tractor makes a stop to discharge sweets.  And I use the word ‘discharge’ advisedly.  The Three Kings get a bit emotional at this stage and hurl the sweets and toys about with extreme volence, often trying to hit the parents.  We shut the shutters to protect the office windows and the wise among us use opened umbrellas as protection against the incomers.  We made the mistake this year of leaving the office door open and I had remember thinking what the insurance company were going to make of my claim against damage caused to computer screens caused by high-velocity confectionery.  After the tractor has moved on to the top square a most sinister scene evolves which involves the children and the old women of the village scrabbling about on the ground to collect sweets.  I swear I saw a few elbows being stategically deployed by some of the elders in the darkness and a few little fingers being trodden on, but I may have been mistaken. 

Sweet collector skulking in the shadows

Sweet collector skulking in the shadows

Soon there were no chldren to be seen, probbly as they were following the tractor for easier pickings.  After a tour of the village the tractor ends its trip in front of the Casa de la Cultura and the Tres Magos go inside to give out presents donated by families to their kin.  As these are generally older kids there is not the furore that takes place in the nursery, and things are mellowed by the presence of a ridiculously cheap bar for the fathers upstairs.

The 6th is a family day so I have no idea what goes on in other houses in the village, but ours was the height of decorum and of genteel present-giving and receiving.  I got socks.