History Repeats, Again!

History Repeats, Again!
History Repeats, Again!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Kings of Commerce - Twelfth Night in Barcelona

The Kings of Commerce
(Excerpt from "The Expat's Pajamas")

The Christmas holiday in Spain lasts for two long, work-free weeks culminating in “Reyes” which celebrates the beginning of the discount season. “Reyes” or “Kings Day,” the proverbial “twelfth night” of Christmas,   commemorates the visitation of the three Magi from the Orient —Gaspar, Balthazar, and Aznar—who bring good tidings and cheap products from their respective low-wage kingdoms.   Unlike many countries, where shopping must conclude before Christmas day, in Spain — a land where procrastination is worth waiting for — parents can delay gift purchase decisions until the new tax year.
It's no epiphany that you can tell where the money is in this country by following the kings.  In the town where I lived --Sant Cugat, famous for the depth of its nova-yuppie culture--the kings arrive by helicopter accompanied by klieg lights, fog machines, and a stage show worthy of The Rolling Stones.
After the kings’ assault chopper touched down, they were paraded through the town in monster trucks followed by elaborate floats, marching bands, and lots of plugs for local enterprises.  Dignitaries riding the garish floats enjoyed pelting the plebes with rock-hard candy and shouts of good tidings.
Catalans love fire, danger, and demons and find a way to work them into all celebrations from baptisms to funerals. One of the floats was a giant stew pot full of nuns being cooked by happy devils. The sisters simmered in the soup while the flame-stoking demons danced and stirred the stew with their pitchforks. 

      The Kings of Commerce eventually arrived at the local monastery where a hooded priest brought them a plastic baby to endorse and revere. After sufficient adoration and a demonstration of the toy’s many child-pleasing features, the royal retailers distributed discount coupons for local stores and then drove around town throwing more hard candy at children.
 Next, the parade floats wound around town so that all kids, rich and richer, had a chance to dive under the tractor wheels to fetch the fallen candy. Seeing children risk being mashed to mince by tractors, horses, and hummers adds a level of heart-stopping excitement that simply can’t be found elsewhere.
Each king signifies an important value like faith, hope, and disdain for immigrants. The “African” king (usually a white guy with a painted face) is the kids’ favorite for the obvious reason that he brings toys. The other two geezers just bring clothes, school supplies, and EU subsidies.
While Sant Cugat’s Kings voyage by helicopter, it’s widely believed that the real kings traveled on camel back. In deference to this tradition, local pastry shops sell little bowls of  chocolate camel dung for parents to leave as proof that dromedaries and dukes still deliver the goodies. How the camels sneak into high-rise security apartment buildings isn't much of a concern, nor is the fact that their poop is edible. Why question a sweet thing?


  1. Time changes my friend, see that

    Merry Christmas.

  2. Thanks to Bufaforat for posting the link to "The Digital Story of the Nativity" in his comment. Que bien!

  3. Nice story - it sounds like Carnivale in Italy.