Kings Parade

After following yonder star, Their Royal Highnesses Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior will arrive on Lanzarote on January 5th to bring joy, presents and thousands of boiled sweets to the island’s eager children.

“Parades take place at any time from 4pm to 8.30pm in most of the towns and resorts on the island.”

Traditionally, in Spain, it has been the Three Kings, and not Santa Claus, who bring presents for children, and they do so on the last night of Christmas, January 5th.

In the afternoon, the Three Kings traditionally parade through towns and cities, throwing sweets to children and later receiving the letters in which they ask for gifts. On Lanzarote, the proceedings are given an extra air of authenticity by the fact that the Kings are often mounted on real live camels, which grudgingly bear the wise men in all their finery.

The Kings can be seen in all the major towns on Lanzarote, and also turn up by boat to the island of La Graciosa. It’s an intense schedule, and if you keep your eyes out you might spot one of the Kings sneaking behind a school or community centre for a crafty cigarette.

With such a tight schedule, it’s amazing that the Kings manage to reach everywhere on the island, but they do. Parades take place at any time from 4pm to 8.30pm in most of the towns and resorts on the island, so be sure to get in touch with your local Ayuntamiento or keep your eyes open for posters giving the exact times.

The event is a riot of colour and spectacle, and unmissable if you have smaller children (or if you like boiled sweets yourself).

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Wise Move
In recent years Three Kings parades in Spain have been criticised for “blacking up” a white man to portray the African King Balthazar, but it’s important to remember that this tradition has nothing to do with the minstrel tradition that poked fun at black people in the USA.

Balthazar represents the presence of the Church in Africa, and he is every bit as noble and revered as the other two wise men. The absence of black people in many Spanish towns also meant that there simply wasn’t a black council worker to play the role. Nowadays, many councils make an attempt to find a black person to play the role.

Nevertheless, in Arrecife a couple of years ago, the black actor wisely refused to get onto one of the angry looking camels at the last minute, leaving a camel handler to apply the boot polish at the last minute.