Monday, January 7, 2008

Kings, Camels and a Baboon

Yesterday morning, after a fitful night's sleep, I awoke to find a coffee mug in my running shoe. Well not so much a coffee mug - although it was a coffee mug - but a small gift-wrapped box. And strategically placed next to it was Señor Gato Gringo's right dress shoe, it too the proud receptacle of a seasonally accoutered prezzie.

Against the odds, for Señor G.G. and I are not always the best behaved, Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior - the Three Kings, Wisemen, or Magi or whatever - had visited us during the night. No wonder I had slept so poorly - it must have been the gurgling and percolating and farting sounds emanating from their camels that kept me up.

And I doubt that I was the only one tossed upon troubled waves of tangled bedsheets the night of the 5/6th. Every child in Spain - and I have this on good authority, namely their parents - not completely knackered out by watching the Three Kings parade extravaganza, waited in sleepless anticipation for the visit of the Los Reyes Magos. For in Spain children receive their Christmas gifts on January 6th - the Epiphany - rather than the morning of December 25th. There is a certain logic to it: the Namesake of the Celebration didn't receive anything (except arguably the gift of life and even then he squandered it) - not so much as a rattle or a receiving blanket - on the day of his birth until those Inscrutable Ones from the East came bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh.

So like Christ, Spanish kids just have to wait. But unlike Christ, they write letters to the Three Kings itemizing what they want. It's unlikely that baby Jesus was hankering for a casket of myrrh - a gift which, as the intoxicant offered to him while nailed to the cross, presaged his death. It would be like offering a newborn a carton of Marlboros with Extra Tar. Perhaps a wind-up duckie would have done the trick.

And rather than stockings, children leave out a very clean shoe (perhaps a milksop to the olfactory sensitivities of the magi) which awaits the largesse of los Reyes who enter, not through a chimney - because how stunned is that? - but through a window. I can only hope that, while en route, none of the We Three Kings from Orient Are try to smoke a rubber cigar. Especially a loaded one because otherwise, it could explode (BOOM!) and send them travelling far.

Kings and camels are sustained during the long night of travel by offerings of nuts, cognac and a pail of water (the latter presumably for the camels) left out by bed-bound children although one parent I spoke with said that in their house, a bottle of cava (Spanish sparkling wine) is left for the Kings. And do you know what? she asked. In the morning, that bottle is empty!

No kidding?

So yesterday there was much mirth in Spain amidst an unwrapping feeding-frenzy, fueled by massive portions of roscón de reyes, a ring-shaped (which cheerfully resembles Christ's crown of thorns) candied fruit-topped doughy confection which, to my mind, is about as appetizing as fruit cake. In it has been baked a bean or a small figurine, and the lucky individual who finds the bean not only risks breaking a tooth but has to pay the roscón provider the value of the cake. Fun that.

In our home, it was Special K and coffee. And the prezzies left by los Reyes. We elected not to dwell on the fact the two gifts they left in our shoes strongly resembled the 'secret Santa' gifts we bought for the office Christmas party which had been cancelled at the last minute. It was enough to know that real live honest-to-goodness flatulating camels stood outside our window that night bearing on humps ladened with gifts for the world's Spanish-speaking children two coffee mugs: one of which - and more importantly mine - is emblazoned with a camera-wielding baboon taking a photograph of his technicolour bottom ... marrying my fear of monkeys with my fear of cameras. However did the Wise Men know? Truly these Orientals are inscrutable.

3 comments:

Cath said...

Now I've got that damn French carol in my head:

Ce matin, j'ai rencontré le train
De trois grands rois qui allaient en voyage
Ce matin, j'ai rencontré le train
De trois grands rois dessus le grand chemin

(There... now it's in your head, too.)

La Gatita Gringa said...

I had a colleague who said that if you hum the theme from Sanford & Son for a few minutes that it'll erase any other annoying song that's looping through your brain.

Of course, then you have to get rid of the theme from Sanford & Son.

Cath said...

Joe has the same theory about the theme from My Three Sons.