My husband and I were in Valencia, Spain for a week during the Three King’s Day Festival (El Dia de los Reyes) that takes place in early January. We travel often and opted for a hostel with a private room and bath, which ended up having such a great location that we would have paid triple the price to stay there. Location is key when you are traveling, especially for those on a budget. The less you spend on public transportation and taxis the more you have for other expenditures.
We were able to walk all over the city from the hostel and partook in the holiday festivities easily. Three Kings Day celebrates the love and adoration by the Three Kings for baby Jesus. The celebration begins with a huge parade, during which candy is thrown from all the floats and into the hands of the dressed up children in the crowds. The spectacle resembled Halloween in a way; some children wore costumes and left with large plastic bags full of candy. After the parade, the barricades between the streets and onlookers were shoved aside as people descended into the streets to recover all the candy that had fallen. It could only be compared to ants claiming the contents of a picnic lunch. I was disappointed to find most of the candy was crushed and inedible.
While snacking on a few of the pieces caught midair, we made our way into the shopping areas of the city by falling into the large crowds that were herding their way towards food and fashion. All the stores stay open into the wee hours of the morning the night of the parade. People shop, eat, and spend an evening enjoying the company of family and friends. I found all their traditions endearing, and loved the parallels between various holidays in the United States, i.e. Halloween as mentioned above, and on “Black Friday” stores and shops open early and close late. After shopping and dinner, realizing it was after 2 am, we decided to call it a night and head back to the room.
The next morning, sound drifted into my unconscious mind. I stirred and looked over at my husband who was sleeping soundly. I checked the clock and it was about 6 am. I stealthily pulled off the blanket and crept towards the balcony. The streets were empty and the sky was preparing for the sunrise.
I waited and looked around, knowing that the music was not a figment of sleep or imagination. Then it began again, the beautiful voices of the choir singing in one of the nearby churches. Every now and then the gospel would be interrupted by the words of the priest and the lyrics would take off again. Spiritual or irreligious, whatever I was or was not at that moment, it was hard to deny the ethereal and beautiful aspects of the situation. I felt like an intruder, not meant to take part in this but I also felt the inclusion of the whole scene; the sun rising and welcoming a new day, the empty streets begging for a straggler, and the church voices welcoming the pious to join in the celebration of the holiday. The experience seemed personal and yet public and I relished what can happen when you join the festivities of a different culture, and open your heart and mind to the possibilities of life.
© Jessica Morgan