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On the Twelfth Night of Christmas I Got Camel Poop

Photo: Neon Wise Guys Rock The Planetarium

(SNN) - 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 humble Magi —Gaspar, Balthazar, Ottokar and Minibar—who bring good tidings and cheap products from their 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 the Magi represent humility and devotion.  In Sant Cugat, the town where I lived, the Kings demonstrate their reverence by arriving in a helicopter accompanied by klieg lights, fog machines, and deafening music. After their assault chopper touches down, the modern Magi parade through the town in monster trucks followed by elaborate floats, marching bands, and local dignitaries pelting the plebes with rock-hard candy.

My favorite float 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. This moving display neatly summarized the history of Catholicism in Spain.

Eventually, the Kings of Commerce arrive at the town’s ancient church where a hooded priest produces a plastic baby to revere. After sufficient adoration and a demonstration of the doll’s many child-pleasing features, the royal retailers hand out discount coupons and unemployment checks.
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 geezers just bring clothes, school supplies, and EU subsidies.

While Sant Cugat’s kings voyage by helicopter, it’s widely believed that the ancient Magi traveled on camel back. In deference to this tradition, local pastry shops sell little piles of chocolate camel dung for parents to leave as proof that the dukes and dromedaries have visited.  How the camels sneak into high-rise apartment buildings isn't much of a concern, nor is the fact that their poop is edible. Why question a sweet thing?

(Adapted from the author’s free e-book: “The Expat’s Pajamas”)
Photo: Some rights reserved by Phil Plait flickr photostream, The Sage nor this article endorsed

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