Cabalgatas de los Reyes Magos (“Cavalcade of the Magi”)
This is one of the most popular yearly events in Barcelona and is basically a “parade-slash-mardi-gras” celebration for adults and kids alike. The cavalcades date back to 1855 in Barcelona, which is the oldest in Spain, but the actual theme heralds back to the birth of Christ. According to the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, wise men (assumed to be three) traveling from the east arrived 12 days after Jesus was born. They had been following a star that announced the birth of a very special child, which was in fulfillment of previous scriptures. Therefore, the wise men wanted to meet the new messiah and bring him gifts, which consisted of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. This event, as you can imagine, was turned into the current tradition of giving children gifts on this day; either in lace or in addition to Christmas eve, depending on the family’s and culture’s traditions.
The cavalcades actually occur each year on January 5th, which is the eve of Epiphany, the actual celebration of the three wise men’s arrival and is a significant event for locals in Barcelona. In this coastal city, there are typically 19 parades in various districts around the metropolis, plus the “general cavalcade.” The parades for Gràcia and El Parc i la Llacuna del Poblenou are scheduled for today, January 4, but the remaining 17 parades, and the General Cavalcade, will be held the evening of January 5 starting anywhere from 5 and 630 PM. Check the following article for locations and times.
With all due respect to the district-based parades, the General Cavalcade is the main event. This gigantic parade will start at 4:00 PM close to the monument to Christopher Columbus, ride up the Passeig de Colom, wind around and go up Via Laietana, meander a bit through the Barri Gotic, then head down Sepúlveda to Plaça Espanya, and end up in Montjuïc. In order to get close and appreciate the experience, you need to find a place along the route at least two or three hours before the start. Some people pack food, blankets, chairs, etc. and simply camp pout before and during the event. However, if you go to Plaça Espanya around 8:45 PM, you will be able to get a good look at the coaches, participants, and spectators without any trouble. The square is so large that it lends itself to appreciate the parade unimpeded.
As I wrote earlier, the event is intended for young and old, but just like in any crowd, you need to be careful to watch your kids carefully and hang on to them. The parade participants will throw wrapped candy at the crowds, so be prepared to carry some of the sweets back home with you Some people I know use an upside umbrella to capture as many of the sugary treats as possible. Also, since our current winter is a particularly cold one, make sure to dress warmly.
The parade is expected to end shortly after 9 PM. Therefore, if you are hungry and/or thirsty afterward, make sure to enjoy some great food and drinks down Avinguda de Mistral, on Paral-lel or upon the Carrer de la Creu Coberta, as well as around the many streets and alleys around these main roads. Additionally, there are many other options around Plaça Espanya surrounding the Arenas Mall, and within the mall itself; either in the basement for good fast food or at the top at fancier restaurants with city views.