The Three Wise Men from the East, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar, are the most long-awaited characters in Spanish homes. Although Santa Claus is fast becoming an important part of Spanish culture, based on the Catholic tradition, the Three Wise Men came from far away, more than 2000 years ago, to pay tribute to Jesus on his birth and offer him gifts.
Twelfth Night (the night of January 5th) is a century-old tradition. The custom is to leave clean shoes in a special place in the home, along with some food. Then, the next morning, the Three Wise Men leave presents for the members of the family near the shoes, or a lump of coal, if anyone has not been good. The children write letters to the Wise Men, to let them know what they want, and explain why they think they deserve the presents.
On the evening of January 5th, a Parade for the Three Wise Men is organised in every city in Spain, where the townsfolk can see the Three Wise Men mounted on floats, passing through the streets of the city, preceded by historic characters related to birth of Jesus, such as shepherds, Romans, pages, assistants, etc.
The Three Wise Men from the East usually send a Messenger to Gijón a few days before they arrive. His name is Prince Ben-Ali and he is accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Abdeladid. Ben-Ali is entrusted with the task of receiving the letters and delivering them to Their Majesties, the Three Wise Men. The reception is held at the Marquee in the Kiosk in Paseo de Begoña, between December 27th and January 4th.
The Wise Men arrive in boats at the city harbour on the morning of January 5th, and then visit the Town Hall, where a reception is held. In the evening, the Parade takes place, with 7 huge floats that pass through the streets of Gijón, following a route that ends at the main city square.
That night, the children are sent to bed early, because they get so excited about opening and seeing their presents that they get up earlier than usual, in order to spend all day making the most of their gifts.