A billion fireworks and a couple hangovers later and you thought the holiday season was over, right? Wrong! In Argentina, we still have one important day left – although it mainly holds importance for those under 8 years of age… January 5th or Day of the Wise Men.
If you are a parent of a child in Argentina (whether permanently or just for vacation), you have to know about this celebration – it is even bigger than the arrival of Santa Claus (Papa Noel) on the 24th. A Spanish tradition, this is a huge present giving day where children lay out their shoes on the evening of the 5th and then wake up to gifts delivered by the Three Wise Men on the morning of the 6th. Tears, tantrums, smiles and excited shrieks are obligatory.
Children have to behave well for at least the few days leading up to January 5th, and traditionally they must write a letter to the Wise Men explaining why they have behaved well all year and putting in a request for certain gifts. This is obviously a perfect blackmail opportunity for parents, and – in case you are on holiday and don’t have all the right contacts – most parents here boast at having a direct email, cell phone number or twitter account for the Wise Men. Just ask your Argentine neighbor, I’m sure they’ll happily share contact details if your child misbehaves. If they do misbehave, the reward is a lump of coal in their shoes.
The traditional doesn’t really spread much beyond early adolescent years but some adults might find themselves rewarded if they leave their shoes out this Saturday night. Just make sure you leave out boots big enough to squeeze in a bottle of Malbec!
Amanda Barnes is a British journalist living in Mendoza, enjoying the wine and mountains, and yes, she has been a very good girl this year and would like the three wise men to swap her broken old shoes for a pair of shiny new shoes please.