Tuesday, January 8, 2019

2019 and the End of Our Times (in Seville)

Ah, it’s still so early in the year, and we have already so much to write about! We’ve had two sets of visitors in the last few weeks (my daughter Nina, and our friends Sue & Allan); we’ve spent 3 days in Granada and the fabulous Alhambra; we roamed the streets of Seville on New Year’s Eve and ate the 12 grapes; and we’ve just now returned from four days in Malta with Sue and Allan. More on that later. But this posting is about the parade.

Christmas in Spain (and most of Europe) is more low-key than in the US. Most of the European countries are Christian – Roman Catholic, in fact – so this Holy Day has great significance religiously. Socially, though, not so much. Family and friends gather and celebrate, the churches are well decorated, and of course we’vealready mentioned the public (and private!) beléns, or Nativity scenes. But the big blow-out day here in Spain is the 6th of January, Three Kings Day, or Día de los Reyes.

Anticipation runs high before the parade starts...
The Kings are the men (referred to as “wise men” in the King James Version of the bible, from the original Greek word “magi”) who came from “the East” to visit the Baby Jesus shortly after his birth. Other parts of the Old Testament refer to kings coming to worship. Whatever, the 6th of January is the Epiphany, the day the three fellows arrived from the East with gifts for the Christ Child. While it is part of the Christian calendar, in the US it’s not really celebrated; but here in Spain it's the day when children receive their gifts.

The night before, on the 5th, Spanish kids write their letters to the Kings (not Santa Claus), asking for their gifts. And, the next morning, Kings' Day, the gifts appear. So, yeah, it’s a big day here! And it’s generally celebrated with a parade. We were enchanted by the parade when we were here two years ago, and I have certainly been looking forward to it.

Horses are a traditional part of Spanish culture, so we'll start there.
And what's a parade without a marching band?
It was a gorgeous sunny winter day, the sun low in the sky, a couple of hours before sunset. The warm tones in the light set off the stone buildings, many painted in the mustard and dark brick colors that seem to be a signature of Seville. Excitement was building, as was the crowd. Lots of kids, of course, many getting lost underfoot amidst all the adults (and in retrospect, there seemed to be a great many adults for a kid’s parade!) We were all straining to see far down the street where distant blue and yellow lights flashing promised something happening.

The first of the Three Kings (aka Wise Men). Nice horsies!
Finally it arrived: marching bands, groups of men in uniform, other groups of people in costumes. Three men on horseback in blackface and turbans (the Kings were from the East, right? East of Bethlehem is… Baghdad? Arabia? So dark skin and turbans are in keeping with the story.) More horses, most carrying Kings, reminded me that there are some very fine horses in Seville. (Horses are not something we see, or think about much, but horsemanship has been a powerful tradition in Spain for a long time, and nowhere are these traditions more honored than in Andalusia, with Sevilla as its capital.) More marching groups, all in blackface with turbans, laughing. Clearly, everyone was having a good time!

A whole phalanx of Kings!
Then come the floats. Many had Nativity themes, others fantasy creatures, and some it was just hard to tell. But every one had a gaggle of kids – and a few adults – throwing candy into the crowd, to cries of “Carmelo! Carmelo!” It was wild. The floats were tall, maybe 15 or 20 feet off the ground, well above the crowds, and as they passed the occupants would dump armloads of hard candies on the heads of those of us below. Do you have any idea how much a hard candy from 20 feet up can hurt? (And some of those kids on the floats were really flinging them down!)
A camel theme was popular this year.

As candies covered the ground, I was careful not to lift my feet, to avoid crushing anything, especially the fingers of the kids scrabbling to collect the caramelos. And I understood why some of the folks had covered their shoes with plastic… to avoid tracking smashed candies into their home!

A moon-shot theme, complete with... aliens?

Oh no, another camel!
And the air is filled with candies!

Finally the last float passes, the last candies are thrown. And then come the police cars, and the municipal trucks, followed by the sweepers, forming a parade of their own. Some are city employees, I’m sure; others hired just for the day. With wide brooms they move along both sides of the street, pushing wrappers and loose candies towards the center. Next, the big street sweeping machines, two and three abreast, wave after wave of them. After each wave the street is a bit cleaner, but even after the fourth set of machines have passed it’s clear the street will take a few days to recover!

And as the sun sets, the final act of the parade, the street sweepers! 

Then we slowly make our way back to our apartment, not far but the going is slowed by the dispersing crowd. The cafes are full, everyone in a jolly mood; and lines are forming at the confectioners shops as people stop on their way home for a King’s Day treat for the special dinner they will be having tonight. 

(Two days later the streets look normal. Hurray for the cleaning crew!) 

As for us, we are soon to depart Spain, as our 90 days are up and we must leave Europe.  We will be heading for our winter quarters in North Africa, in Morocco.  First a month in the coastal city of Essaouira, then some time in Fez, and our final month in Antalya, Turkey.
Stay tuned!

By the way, if you are viewing this on a mobile device, you may want to check the web site directly; at the top right of the page is a link to an interactive map of our travels, by Travellerspoint. (Or, click here!)

1 comment:

  1. The parade looks so exciting! Sorry we missed it but glad you didn't!
    You added the links! Yay!
    Enjoy your last days. Travel safe.


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