The first week of the year in Spain is a double celebration – New Year itself followed by the arrival of the ‘Three Kings’ of Biblical fame who followed a star to bring presents to the baby Jesus.
This year it seemed the Magi managed to load their camels full of vehicles of varying types and sizes for all the children of La Chanca, judging by the number of quads and mini-motorbikes that were racing up and down our street the morning after!
I thought it was meant to be a poor neighbourhood, but clearly either the magic of the three kings really does exist, or there is money coming in from ways and means it’s probably better not to explore too closely at this stage, seeing as I want to live a quiet life.
Anyway I was very excited to be able to walk just around the corner for the descent of the three kings from the Alcazaba on the evening of January 5.
The road below the fortress was packed with people, with many of the more agile swarming all over the rocks and precipices of the path leading up to the main entrance.
I was happy to meet some Spanish friends there, and felt very proud when they greeted me exclaiming, “Estamos en tu barrio!” – “We’re in your neighbourhood!”
(As I think I mentioned before, not many shall we say middle class Almeria residents venture out to my neck of the woods!)
We three kings of orient are…Christmas Carol, JH Hopkins Jr
The crowd was in high spirits, cheering first the brightly dressed pages leading the way for their masters, then the camel-riding kings themselves, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, representing Europe, Asia and Africa, according to a woman next to me in the crowd.
(I’ve since looked it up and the kings were assigned to the three known continents in the late middle ages, around the fifteenth century.)
Balthazar, the black king, got the biggest cheer, apparently because he is the most exotic, my companions explained.
We followed the entourage through the narrow streets and into the Plaza Vieja (also known as Plaza de la Constitición) where the kings were welcomed by Almería mayor Ramón Pacheco along with the culture councillor and bishop of Almería.
They then appeared on the balconies of the newly restored historic town hall, in a pantomime style show asking all the children to shout out if they had been good all year (yeees….I can’t hear you…YEEESS).
Then came the rain of sweets. I had read in the press that around 2.2 million “soft” sweets would be thrown during the night (this was only the start of the grand procession) but as one struck me quite a blow on the forehead I can only reiterate you cannot believe everything you read in the papers.
It was all great fun, but as the kings headed off to process down the main streets of the city in a cavalcade of floats, I decided to leave part two for another year and go in search of some dinner instead.
The only disappointment was I failed to get my photo taken with a camel. They were led away before I could fight my way through the crowd to reach them. So no camel selfie for the blog I’m afraid.
Now that the festivities are over I’m on countdown to my proper moving in date on January 14.
Although I’ve been spending as much time as possible in La Chanca over the holidays I can’t actually move until my house sitters arrive.
They are going to take care of the dogs and cat, as well as keeping the house safe.
I tried the dogs out in La Chanca but they stood out just as much as I do, with their soft white fur and well kept appearance.
They attracted a lot of attention from the street kids, who at first seemed well meaning but then aimed a couple of well-placed kicks at Luna, my Breton spaniel.
She was terrified, poor thing, and after I took her inside they continued their entertainment, kicking my car and throwing stones at my window.
In the end I shouted at the little brats in English and they ran off down the street saying I had threatened to cut their throats, according to some little girls a couple of doors down (not part of the brat pack). Of course I hadn’t, but still it was a good result.
So that was that, not a nice experience but the kids were only young and it happened a few weeks ago since when I haven’t had any more trouble.
It’s still not a suitable area for the dogs though, what with the goats and chickens in the street and the tempting piles of rubbish for food-obsessed Luna to nose through.
So they will be well looked after in the comfort of their country dwelling and that will be one less worry for me.
In the meantime, just to end on a more positive kids and dogs note, when Jeanne (see my About page) came over she brought an old dog basket for a little lame puppy down the street, that only had a piece of cardboard to sleep on outside his house. I gave it to the owner saying our dogs had grown out of it, and now the puppy sleeps in it all the time, he is so cute.
We also gave a big bag of sweets to one of the little girls to share among all the kids the night of the kings, and I’ve never seen a child be so excited over some sweets. She literally squealed and jumped up and down. Also cute.
It’s easy to be generous in that way when we have so much and they apparently so little (except for the anomaly of mobile phones, massive tv screens and the sudden plethora of child vehicles) but I also feel it would be a mistake to act like Lady Bountiful, so my main aim is to live a simple life, fitting in as much as possible so that eventually they will see me as one of them.
I’m sure the delivery of my new Ikea sofa helped!