The tradition of the Wise Men or Biblical Magi is based on the biblical passage of adoration of Christ after his birth in the manger of Bethlehem. The Wise Men, after knowing the plans of Herod to kill all the children and ensure the throne by eliminating the possible Messiah, arrived at the manger following a star and offered Jesus gold, incense and myrrh, symbols of the royal, divine and human condition of the newborn.
Although the celebration takes place on January 6, it reaches its magic peak the day before, known as the Three Wise Men night. It is common in Spain to celebrate that night the Cavalcade of Magi, in which Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar come on floats, horses or camels, accompanied by colourful shows and other biblical or cultural characters, focused to families and especially to children. The parade began to be celebrated at the end of the 19th century, especially in Alcoy, whose first time dates from 1866, competing for this title with the city of Barcelona.
In Sant Joan, the parade appeared many years ago due to the initiative of the Parish and it is currently one of the most awaited days of the year. Some days before the arrival of the Wise Men, the royal postman crosses Sant Joan d’Alacant to collect the letters of the children and some adults too, with their requests for gifts and wishes. But the most awaited moment is January 5 in the afternoon, when we are finally visited by the Wise Men, who arrive by different transports, even by helicopter on several occasions.
The parade starts from plaza de la Constitución and arrives to Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where their majesties from the East usually give an offering to baby Jesus, Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary in a stage set in the square for that purpose, or inside the Church, greeted by bells, music and fireworks. They also give a speech to children, who are eagerly waiting to see, hear, meet and take a picture with them. Many local musical, cultural and festival groups participate in the parade. The Wise Men also visit that night and the next day both patients and staff of Sant Joan Hospital, as well as senior residences, bringing affection and Christmas spirit to everyone.
After the parade, the young children return to their homes excited and go to sleep after eating the ‘roscón’ (ring-shaped cake) to wake up the next day and anxiously open the gifts.
That night, families and groups of friends gather together to share dinner, in which the awaited roscón, often served with delicious hot chocolate, is never missing. Some people believe this roscón tradition has its origin in Roman times, linked to Saturnalia festival, which was syncretised with Christmas. Others place it in the Middle Ages. The truth is that this typical dessert is essential in any celebration on the Wise Men Day and every roscon has in the inside surprises in the form of several tiny figures that accompany the one of the King and the dreaded broad bean. The one who finds the latter must pay the roscón, while the person who finds the King will have won the golden cardboard crown that decorates the centre of the roscón. During these days, bakeries and pastry shops in Sant Joan d’Alacant work to produce the most delicious roscón.
Did you know that…?
The afternoon of January 5 was highly expected by the children of Sant Joan, who organized in crews to collect big amounts of old metal pots, which they tied with cords and dragged through the streets while they sounded horns, pipes of cane and whistles singing children songs. When they arrived at plaza Maissonave, adults forced them to stop that improvised squeaky parade, and the children ran away leaving behind the piles of scrap in the middle of the street, aware of their mischief.