The crowd cheers and I duck as a rainbow of hardboiled missiles pelts down around me. A moment later, men, women and children scrabble around on the lamplit pavement, their hands brushing mine, their fingernails gouging mud and fruity pulp from the earth that surrounds the orange trees.
Then the chanting returns. “Caramelos! Caramelos!”
In Seville, children don’t hang stockings on Christmas Eve. They don’t listen for sleigh bells at night and would probably struggle with the concept of snow. Instead, they wait for Los Reyes Magos, the Three Wise Men, to bring them their presents on January 6th.
Instead of Stockings on Christmas Eve…
The Cabalgata de Reyes Magos, the Procession of the Three Kings, takes place the night before. Many towns across Andalusia stage the arrival of the Magi but the biggest festival takes place in the region’s capital, Seville. Last night, an estimated 9 000 kilos of sweets were flung across the heads of the masses.
I arrived in good time, threading my way through the procession route in the glow of fairy lights and the steam of roast chestnuts. I passed the wide-eyed stares of young children and the energetic chatter of teenagers, surprised to see so many adults at what I’d imagined would largely be a family affair.
There’s an undeniable sense of tension and expectation in a waiting crowd. A restless, excited feeling of common purpose. Men have umbrellas clamped under one arm, children wear gold paper hats and a busy girl in jeans distributes plastic bags to the unprepared. Bakery doors swing open and shut as last minute shoppers collect their special provisions: crumbly Mantecado biscuits and a giant donut-shaped cake with candied fruit and a trinket buried inside, the Roscas de Reyes.
Undeniable tension and expectation in the crowd.
A few police cars crawl along and the music grows louder. Then they appear: the wise men on horseback. They set a humble, biblical pace, waving at the watchful clustered on the balconies. It’s an atmosphere that doesn’t last.
A brass band jaunts along, ringing a few PC alarm bells with their black face paint, but no-one else seems to mind. Then the spectacle starts. Glittering, plush, expertly arranged floats cruise along, from mermaids to orchestras, Alice in Wonderland to spaceships, Mickey Mouse to a Michael Jackson band. There’s one thing that unites them: caramelos!
Children and grown men hurl hard boiled sweets from the height of these whimsical creations and suddenly I understand the umbrellas. Turned upside down they satisfy two needs: protection and collection. If only I’d thought of that. Instead I have to rely on my outstretched hands – until I give in and scrabble among the leaves with the best of them.
I give in and scrabble among the leaves with the best of them.
NB – This video was posted before I became (ahem) a techno whiz. Speed along to 50 seconds to see the good stuff – and I promise to edit it soon!