Christmas in Spain. What is it like? What do Spaniards eat? From this post, you will also learn about the Christmas traditions in Spain, what Dia de los Inocentes is and how the Spanish celebrate the Epiphany.
Everything is different this year, so Christmas will be also non-standard one. Under normal circumstances, the festive mood accompanying Christmas (Spanish: Navidad) is felt in the south of Spain from mid-November, when the ubiquitous preparations for the holidays begin.
Streets, roundabouts, shops and shopping centers are slowly being dressed up in Christmas decorations, and homes are starting to prepare and search for characters for the nativity scene. Colder days are also starting and sweaters are no longer enough, which for us is a sign that winter and Christmas in Spain are just around the corner.
Christmas in Spain - Bethlehem Nativity Scene
The most popular figure in the nativity scene is the famous "El Caganer". Wikipedia describes this persona as follows: “El Caganer is a character that is placed in the nativity scenes. Usually it is hidden in a corner, behind a bush, where it defecates. (…) Although the exact reason for placing this figure in the nativity scene is unknown, it is believed that El Caganer fertilizes the soil with its excrement, and is therefore considered a symbol of prosperity and good luck for the next year. This tradition is fully accepted by the Church. Placing this figure in a nativity scene brings happiness and joy, failure to follow the tradition brings misfortune."
The Nativity Scene in Spain is much more popular than the Christmas tree, although every year it gets more and more popular in Spanish homes. It is adorned like almost all over the world with colorful baubles, chains and lamps.
December 22nd is without doubt one of the most important days in the run-up to Christmas in Spain. This is the day when the drawing of the famous Spanish Christmas lottery "El Gordo" (meaning "fat man") takes place. The streets are dying down and from the very morning you can hear the very characteristic "singing" of numbers. I am convinced that there will be no Spaniard in all of Spain who has not bought a single Christmas lottery ticket at least once. The highest win to date in "El Gordo" was in 2011 near Tarragona - EUR 33 million. Nice Christmas gift, right?
Christmas traditions in Spain – Christmas Eve
The tradition of Christmas Eve is also known in Spain. Christmas Eve is a familiar celebration, but after the gala dinner it is also celebrated with friends, outside.
The Spanish Christmas Eve menu is very varied, mostly seafood or poultry, although each region has a specific dish. Of course, the table also includes freshly cut Spanish ham "jamón" and mandarins that have just been brought from the orchard. Desserts usually consist of delicious "turrón" and marzipan, while Arabian desserts made of almonds and honey are also popular. They used to be prepared in the pastry shops of every city, now they can be bought in shops ready.
Practicing Catholics go to the Midnight Mass (Misa del Gallo) at midnight.
Christmas Day in Spain is spent with family and friends, on this day the festive meal is the dinner. In many places, roast mutton is traditionally prepared for this day, in others, just like on Christmas Eve, seafood, poultry, Spanish ham and mandarins are in the lead.
December 28th – Dia de los Inocentes
Do you know that, according to the Christmas tradition in Spain, December 28th is the equivalent of our Fool's Day? Of course, the best fun is for children who, in some regions, mainly in small villages, visit their family's and neighbors' homes and receive sweets in return for a Christmas carol.
New Year's Eve and New Year in Spain
New Year’s Eve in Spain is divided into two parts: the first is a gala dinner with the family, the second – an outdoor celebration. At 00:00, it is tradition to eat 12 grapes, one for each clock strike. The grapes are to ensure prosperity for the next 12 months. Practical Spaniards grew for this purpose a special variety of very sweet, small, seedless grapes, so that no one accidentally choked and did not jeopardize their future prosperity ☺ Before New Year's Eve, you can buy specially packed grapes: 12 fruits, already stripped of stalks, washed and ready for immediate consumption. Life should be easy, also on New Year's Eve.
Some places have their own unique New Year's Eve traditions. In Coin, for example, practically all residents dress up and celebrate the beginning of the New Year with their friends in various disguises. The party starts in the streets and then moves to clubs and private homes. It often takes several months to prepare costumes in groups of friends, but the results are worth it, they delight with their ingenuity and sense of humor.
The Epiphany is celebrated very loudly. The day before, on January 5th, there are beautiful parades and performances, the so-called Cabalgatas de Reyes, where tons of candies and sweets are spread. The children await them the most, because it is the Three Kings who bring them gifts together with the tons of sweets. In Algeciras, during the holidays, children collect cans to prepare the so-called Arrastre, which is nothing else than cans on a string. The kids are dragging these cans along the streets on the morning of January 5th so the Reyes do not miss their house that night and leave their gifts.
Roscón de Reyes cake
On January 6th, it is a tradition to eat a cake called "Roscón de Reyes", in which two objects are hidden – a grain of beans and a figure of one of the Reyes. A person who finds the character of one of the Kings will not only be lucky in a given year but will also be crowned with a paper crown attached to the cake. A person who comes across beans will not only have to fight bad luck in the New Year but also provide the family with "Roscón de Reyes" the following year.
Christmas is an extremely joyful time in Spain. Although slightly different from the ones you might know, they are equally beautiful in their otherness.