Madrid: Hundreds of thousands of people crowded the streets of Madrid on 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.
Carriages decorated with palm fronds, glitter and lights paraded from Madrid`s Nuevo Ministerios toward the central Plaza de Cibeles square, in the largest of Spain`s annual processions which was broadcast live across the country on public television.
People atop the floats showered onlookers with 1.2 tons of candy, sending children scrambling to pick up sweets that fell to the ground.
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.
Just as with Santa Claus, children write letters to the Magi asking for gifts which are left for them on January 6, a national holiday in Spain.
The celebration is more popular than Christmas in Spain and in parts of Latin America.
Musical bands, dancers, camels laden with parcels, horses and a flock of white geese accompanied the floats Monday.
A fireworks show lit up the sky after the three kings -- Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar -- arrived at the end of the parade route at the Plaza Cibeles, where they read out their annual message to the children of the Spanish capital.
In the Mediterranean port of Barcelona, the Magi arrived by boat where they were welcomed by the city`s mayor who gave them a symbolic key that opened all the doors to the city.
The kings then led a parade of floats involving performers from over 20 dance and theatre schools through the streets of Spain`s second-largest city.
The Magi also arrived by boat in the northern port of Gijon while in Leganes, a stellite city about 10 kilometres (six miles) southwest of Madrid, they arrived by helicopter.