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Postcard From Valencia #3

06 January 2023

Buenos Dias everyone, and happy Three Kings Day or Dia de Reyes. Today’s holiday remembers the arrival of the three wise kings to Bethlehem after following the star that led them to seek the baby whose birth had been prophesied. It’s the major gift-giving day in the Spanish Christmas calendar, and it marks the official end of Christmas’ Twelve Days that began on Christmas Day, December 25.

On the one hand, it can be a little jarring to see the part of Christmas you’ve always grown up with, the day itself, and Christmas Eve seemingly downgraded a bit over here. Yes, Santa Clause, and Papa Noel, still comes, but if you’re destined to receive a few “useful” Christmas gifts (to quote Dylan Thomas’ narrator in A Child’s Christmas in Wales), you’re more likely to get them from Papa Noel on Christmas morning than later.

But, on the other hand, it also feels right that the celebration of the birth kicks off a major festival that involves not just a few hours, but days. That involves family and friends not just for a short period of togetherness stolen from the demands of the day, as it were, but deploys them into a period deliberately aside for that, forcing an opening in the practical, money making, and business calendar that dominates so much of the rest of the year.

And experiencing Christmas lasting twelve days gave some of the more perplexing things about the holiday a logic they hadn’t had before. For example, if Christmas lasts twelve days, it makes a good deal more sense to speak about ‘the Christmas Season.’

According to tradition, the three wise men are Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar and their gifts were not random items they had lying about and decided to re-gift. Frankincense was associated with the temple rites in Jerusalem and was believed to indicate the baby’s divine mission, gold was meant to recognize the baby’s future authority as king and myrrh, an element key to burials, was believed to recognize his eventual earthy fate thirty-three years later.

Since we’re still so new here, we haven’t had a chance to really take part in the season’s festivities, such as attending a three kings’ parade where the kings throw candy into the crowds of spectators. We also have not been able to participate in the Three King’s Breakfast, where on the morning of the Three King’s Day, Spanish families gather to hand out presents and feast on roscón.

Roscón is often translated as doughnut, but it also means the special cake that Spanish families eat on Three King’s Day. Imagine a round doughnut about twelve inches across, sometimes more, sometimes less. Now, cut the doughnut in half horizontally and fill the gap with some sort of ganache or whatever flavor you choose. Decorate the top with a variety of dried and candied fruit and you have a roscón.

The Husband and I found these on sale at the Central Market on Thursday, all in the twelve-to-fourteen-inch size range. Not only were they twenty-two to twenty-four euros, as there were only two of us we couldn’t have possibly eaten a whole roscón ourselves. So, we decided not to buy this year but maybe get to attend a Three Kings’ Breakfast next year and have a slice of roscón and not the whole thing.

In other news from this week, our trial run on drying clothes on racks and lines in different parts of the apartment worked, so we’re happy. We probably will still take the sheets and towel to the lavandaria about four blocks away to get them washed and dried, but the bulk of our laundry we can do in-house.

Future events next week, on Tuesday the guys from Valiant, the company that made and services our apartment’s water heater will arrive at the request of our landlord. The heating system here is radiant heat via radiators. The water heater gets the water hot enough, but our landlord believes the pressure is insufficient to get the water to the radiators. So far, we have been warm enough so it hasn’t been an issue, but some heat would make mornings nicer.

Also, some folks from a local cleaning service will come to clean the place for us. We don’t do badly on the day-to-day cleaning/organizing, but neither of us does well with dusting, dry and wet mopping or cleaning out sinks, etc. They bring their own soaps, etc, but we will have to make sure the apartment's cleaning instruments are in good working order before they arrive.

Love to you all,

David and Rich.

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