Christmas seems to have taken us by surprise this year and is creeping up on us fast. If you’re planning a winter city break then you’ll probably be wondering how the festival is celebrated around Europe. Each week we’ll be looking into how Christmas is celebrated abroad, focusing on a different country each week. This week we’re looking at Spain.
Christmas in Spain is very religious festival, which sees many families attend church of various religious days. The festive season begins with Immaculada (the feast of the immaculate conception) on 8 December.
A big Spanish Christmas tradition is the Christmas lottery or El Gordo (the fat one). Each year Spanish families hope to win big and all gather round the TV on the night of 22 December to see if this year will bring them luck.
A traditional Spanish Christmas dinner will usually be eaten on Christmas Eve with family and feature some type of cooked meat such as lamb or seafood. Special Spanish Christmas treats include turrón, sweet nougat made with honey and almonds and marzipan figurines.
Although the Spanish recognise the 25 December as Christmas Day they don’t actually properly celebrate with present giving until 6 January. This is the day when supposedly the Three Wise Men or Three Kings came to visit the baby Jesus giving him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
On the eve of 5 January, many towns and cities have large parades or processions filled with floats and elaborate costumes. Spanish children put out their shoes on this night, (not stockings) ready to be filled with presents from the Three Kings or Los Reyes Magos as they call them. Sometimes children fill their shoes with hay for the camels of the Three Kings too. However, in recent years Father Christmas has become popular too and many families will celebrate both traditions and children get twice as many presents!
In between these two celebrations the Spanish also celebrate 28 December, el día de los Santos Inocentes, which is like a Spanish version of our April Fool’s Day. On this day people play practical jokes on each other and often the media will come up with bizarre stories to fool people too.
New Year’s Eve in Spain or NocheVieja is celebrated much the same as it is over here with big parties, however when midnight arrives, tradition has it that you have to eat one grape on each of the twelve chimes, bringing you good luck for the year to come.
So if you’re heading to Spain this Christmas remember to bring a spare pair of shoes and don’t forget the grapes at midnight. Next week we’ll be looking at how Christmas is celebrated in Portugal.