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Spain marks Epiphany Feast with parades
( 2004-01-06 14:08) (Agencies)

Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards crowded the streets of Madrid Monday in a flurry of confetti and soap bubbles to greet the three wise men in one of dozens of Epiphany feast parades held across Spain.

Men dressed as the Three Kings shoot confetti on to a crowd during a Three Kings parade in Pamplona, Spain, Monday Jan. 5, 2004. In Spain, the Three Kings traditionally give out Christmas presents on the night of Jan. 5.   [AP]
Carriages decorated palm fronds, glitter and lights paraded from Madrid's Retiro park toward the central Plaza Mayor square, in what is traditionally the biggest of Spain's annual processions. People atop the floats showered onlookers with candies.

The parades are held each year on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the coming of three wise men to bring gifts to the Christ child. Spain's national news agency EFE reported that 500,000 children and adults turned out.

Just as with Santa Claus, children write letters to the magi asking for gifts which are left for them on Jan. 6. The holiday is more popular than Christmas in Spain and in parts of Latin America.

Musical bands, dancers, camels laden with parcels, horses and elephants accompanied the floats Monday. Gospel singers and a brass band welcomed the kings Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar onto the Plaza Mayor.

In the annual message to the children of the city, Melchior, played by a local politician, promised all presents would be delivered during the night.

In the northern port of Gijon, the Magi arrived by boat. In the city of Vitoria, the kings, mindful of diabetic children, handed out sugar-free candy, while in the southern city of Seville, floats showered 90 tons of sweets onto streets filled with revelers, Spain's national news agency reported.

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