MADRID The three biblical wise men paraded through Madrid's streets amid tight security on Thursday, the eve of Epiphany, which celebrates the day they are said to have visited the infant Christ with gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, accompanied by hundreds of eclectic floats, handed out sweets to the thousands of children lining the Spanish capital's main boulevard.
Madrid's authorities deployed 800 police officers, some heavily armed, erected concrete barriers to block access to streets and curbed the movement of trucks after the December attack in Berlin on a Christmas market.
A Tunisian man killed 12 people in the Dec. 19 attack when he ploughed a truck into a row of market stalls, leading other European capitals to ramp up security [nL5N1EP2IX].
The Day of the Kings on Jan. 6 is a bigger day than Christmas for many in Spain. Children often wait until then to open their presents said to have been brought by the wise men and not Santa Claus, the traditional gift-giver elsewhere.
Every Spanish city and most towns hold parades featuring the kings, wearing robes, crowns and billowing beards, and Madrid's is one of the largest.
In Catalonia controversy has been focused on the attempt by pro-independence organizations to politicize the parade in Vic, a town around 70 kilometres north of Barcelona, with the distribution of lanterns bearing the "estelada" flag, usually used by Catalan separatists.
(Reporting By Jesús Aguado; Editing by Angus Berwick and Richard Lough)