Tomorrow is Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day. We have the day off of work, and it's a day of presents!
Like I've said before, this is the big day for the kids, and officially the final big holiday of the season. You can tell because rebajas (sales) starts the next day, and it is insanity in the stores around town.
This is kind of like our Santa Claus tradition with leaving presents under the tree. The reyes are the guys who the kids tell what they want for presents, who they visit in the mall, and who in the end come during the night to drop off gifts.
Tonight the kids were as anxious as an American child on Christmas Eve...both wanting to go to sleep and not being able to do so due to the anticipation of the nighttime visitors.
Lucia burst into my room before bedtime to tell me that I needed to put a shoe (yes a shoe) under the tree so the reyes will leave me something. I left one of my brand new suede boatshoes, because I think they leave candy and I didn't want to eat food out of a dirty gym shoe. At least, I hope they leave candy. Actually...I think I hear the "reyes" putting candy under the tree right now...
And Cristina used the whole reyes thing to her advantage, getting the kids to pick up their toys downstairs by the tree. "You better pick up your toy trucks so that the reyes won't trip on them! If they do, they might not bother to come next year because this is the house in which they broke their ankles!"
Tonight we ate dinner with Monica and her kids while Jose Enrique went to the Valencia soccer game with friends for his birthday (and also just because they like going to the soccer games). Monica forgot to give Cristina a shoe each from Maria and Dani to put under the tree so that the presents will come for them (so maybe there isn't candy to fill the shoes, and this is just an indicator like "This house belongs to this many pairs of feet. Bring that many people's worth of gifts, please.") Because of this, Lucas put two of his shoes under the tree, and Lucia did as well. And Cristina said (in the presence of Lucas and Lucia) "We have to put two of their shoes under the tree for Dani and Maria. When we were upstairs we told (prayed? shouted?) the reyes to remember that the gym shoe is for Maria, and the brown tiny shoe is for Dani." I'm not really sure if they prey to these kings or what, since they are biblical figures after all. Not deities. But Lucia already mentioned once how Cristina needed to tell the kings she wanted an iPad when Pixon wasn't around so she'd get it despite him saying it was too expensive.
And Lucia and Lucas had already put the bowl of water outside for the camels (that is what the kings ride on, not reindeer, of course). "Outside is better," said Cristina, "since we don't want those big camels trotting all through the house." "I see," I replied.
And the kids left a plate of cookies and some cups of milk for the kings as well. They can get pretty hungry.
The kids were too excited to go to bed, and of course shared with Cristina that they wanted to stay up late to see the kings. Cristina told them they had to go to sleep, and stay in bed, since she was putting the alarm and if they snuck downstairs, the alarm would go off and the cops would come (PS, did I mention that we had an alarm? We do, and it's only downstairs. So the kids can go to their hall bathroom but if they go down a floor to the kitchen or the basement where I am, it will go off. And yes, the security people call immediately. But the cops don't come. That's just a scare tactic.)
Me being me, I wonder how much of this is really that believable. As a child, I was very critical of the whole magical holiday thing. I analyzed the handwriting from Santa letters so much so that my dad went to the neighbor's house to have them write it instead. Although Lucia is a mere 5 years old, she's very smart. Like Cristina said when she made the Santa videos, Lucia probably would figure out that hers and Lucas' would be very similar in wording. Because of that, Cristina showed Lucas his video a day after, when Lucia wasn't around, so Lucia wouldn't be like "Hey, this looks like mine...could it be pre-recorded?"
So I have found four things that clearly Lucia hasn't caught on to, but I find pretty strange.
1. The alarm system. If she can't come downstairs due to the alarm system, how can three giant kings come inside to leave presents? Do they have their own alarm remote? I guess, though, if they supposedly drive flying camels, they could probably figure something out.
2. If we can communicate to the kings by just sitting in our room and talking aloud much like people pray to God, why do the kids write letters to the kings? Why do they need to visit them, in person, at the mall, to tell them what they want for a gift? Couldn't they save the hassle and just sit in their room and talk to their wall to do it?
3. If the night before Reyes Magos there is a parade in which all three kings show up to give out gifts and candy, but the parade exists in many places at once, who is it that we see in our local parade? Clearly they can't have out-of-body experiences, those kings. Although, again, with the flying camels theory. But I think that the kids would be attuned to the fact that the kings in their local parade look WAY different than the kings in the parades shown on TV, from Madrid or other places in Spain. Or maybe not.
4. In American movies and culture, we often talk about how Santa goes around the world leaving presents in every child's home. Obviously, looking back at that, that was not the case. There are religions that don't celebrate Christmas and therefore households that won't get a Santa visit, but also the people who do celebrate Christmas don't always believe in Santa. I haven't traveled everywhere in the world, but it'd be silly to assume that everywhere in the world that celebrates Christmas celebrates it the same way, with a visit from Santa being the most exciting part. Lucas and Lucia both have heard me say how I don't celebrate Reyes Magos in the USA, and if they haven't, they've clearly seen my confusion with how the holiday is celebrated. Like when I question putting a shoe under a plastic fir tree overnight to yield candy (think about that one for a minute). Even still, Lucia says "The three kings will be visiting all the children in the world tonight..." Clearly that's not the case. Not the case in the USA, at least. I think it's only in Spain. Maybe France too, but I am not sure. So these magical kings will be visiting all the children who live in a country that's the size of Texas? I guess that's a little more plausible than the myth of Santa going around the world. Maybe that leaves this magical tradition a little more sane than ours.