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Spain: where kings are cooler than Santa

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Spain: where kings are cooler than Santa
Photo of one of the three kings during Tenerife´s 2015 three kings parade: Desiree Martin/AFP
10:24 CET+01:00
Santa Claus has come off second best in a survey of Spanish children's Christmas preferences with a local tradition proving far more popular.

The study, carried out by a Spanish toy makers association (AEFJ) found that 66.87 percent of Spanish children prefer the Three Kings of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar over Father Christmas when it comes to receiving presents.

Only 27.48 percent prefer Santa Claus as their favoured gift giver.

In Spain, 'Los Reyes Magos' play a similar role to that of Santa Claus in many other parts of the world. Spanish children write letters to the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, who then bring the children gifts the night before or on the morning of the Epiphany, on January 6th. 

According to tradition, the Three Kings come from the Orient on their camels to visit children´s houses, like Santa Claus, visiting all the houses in one night.

Just as children in other countries prepare a drink and biscuits for Santa Claus and leave a carrot for Rudolph, many Spanish children leave a drink for each of the Three Kings and are careful to remember to prepare some food and drink for the camels because this is the only night of the year when they eat and drink.  

Major Three Kings parades, or 'cabalgatas', are being held around Spain on Monday with Madrid hosting one of the biggest. The capital´s Three Kings parade kicks off at 6.30pm and will finish at Plaza Cibeles in the centre of Madrid at around 8.30pm with a huge firework display. 

Barcelona´s Three Kings parade starts at 6pm and conclude at 9.30pm on Avenida Rius i Tauletin in Montjuic and will include thousands of acrobats, actors and dancers.

Santa Claus has grown in popularity over the past few years in Spain, but children still tend to receive their main presents on January 6th which might explain why they prefer the Three Kings: they often bring the better presents.

While the Three Kings and Santa Claus are the most popular present bringers at Christmas time, some areas of Spain have their own characters such as the Olentzero in the Basque country (a man who comes late on December 24th to bring presents) and Tio Nadal (a Christmas log which ‘excretes’ Christmas presents) in Catalonia.

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