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The Calendar of Christmas Events in Spain
10 December 2019 @ 17:51

Christmas is all but upon us. A time for traditions, celebration, gifts and, above all, joy: the day of the “Santos Inocentes”, cribs, family dinners, Three Kings’ parades, New Year’s grapes… Should you decide to spend your Christmas in Spain you will find a country transformed although not as it is back in the UK.  Excessive Christmas decorations, lights and cheesy Christmasy TV adverts are few and far between. If you are not careful you could even miss that fact that Christmas is around the corner... but then again, Christmas is celebrated differently here.


Calendar of Christmas Events:


December 8th – This is the public holiday of Immaculada (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) which marks the beginning of the religious Christmas celebrations. Most notable in Seville.

21st December – In a few cities including Granada the celebration of Hogueras (bonfires) takes place. This date marks the winter solstice (shortest day) and where it is celebrated involves people jumping through fires to protect themselves against illness.

22nd December – All over Spain people never stray far from a TV or radio as the Christmas lottery is drawn over a period of many hours. Everybody in Spain buys tickets for this lottery in the hope of winning El Gordo (the fat one) and the winning number usually means that a good number of people from the same village become a lot better off overnight. Besides the big three prizes there are thousands of smaller prizes shared by people all over Spain. You can buy Spanish Christmas lottery tickets online.

24th December – Christmas Eve is called Nochebuena in Spanish (The Good night) and it is the most important family gathering of the year. In the evening people often meet early for a few drinks with friends then return home to enjoy a meal with the family. Most bars and restaurants close in the evening. Seafood platters followed by meats or roast lamb would be a typical meal rounded off with a typically Christmas sweet called turrón which is a nougat made of toasted sweet almonds. Another typical festive sweet is called Polvorones which is made from almonds, flour and sugar. Cava, Catalan 'champagne' and Asturian cider, would be the chosen drinks for the Christmas toast though plenty of fine Spanish wines will also be consumed with the meal.

25th December – Children may receive a small gift on Nochebuena or on Christmas morning but the day for presents is still 6th January, The Epiphany, when the Three Kings bring gifts for the children. However, this tradition is starting to change with the younger parents as everyone realises that if they give their presents on Christmas day the kids have more time to play with them. Christmas Day is a national holiday in Spain so shops are closed yet it is not a day of great celebration but rather a calm day when people go out for a walk, drop into a bar, visit relatives etc. Another large family meal at lunchtime is common though it’s becoming more common to see families eating out on the afternoon of Christmas day.

28th December – This is the day of Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents) and is the equivalent of April Fools’ Day when people play practical jokes on one another. Often the national media will include a nonsense story in their broadcasts. In some villages youngsters light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders townspeople to carry out civic tasks such as sweeping the streets. Refusal to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration.

31st December – New Year’s Eve is known as NocheVieja. To get involved, don’t forget to buy 12 grapes in advance. Why? According to Spanish tradition, everyone has to eat one grape in time with the striking of the clock at midnight. If you manage to eat them all on time, you will have a New Year full of luck. Although the New Year is broadcast on television, you will have an amazing time if you head for the main squares of towns and cities, normally the location of their clock towers. One of the most emblematic places to experience the celebration? Following the clock at Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid. There you will find thousands of people decked out with hats and squawkers joyfully toasting and welcoming in the New Year. Later on you can join one of the many parties held until dawn at hotels, bars and clubs 

1st January – A low key public holiday with plenty of people sleeping off their excesses.

5th January –  To ensure smiles on the children’s faces at Christmas, nothing better than the Three Kings Parade held on 5 January, the day before the feast of the Three Kings. In Spain it is the three Wise Men of the East, Melchoir, Caspar and Balthazar, who bring Christmas presents to children who have been good. Three Kings Parades, with their page-boys, camels and all kinds of weird and wonderful characters, make their way through the streets of villages, towns and cities all over Spain, to then leave gifts and toys at the houses. They are all spectacular, but special mention should be made of the one in Alcoi, in the province of Alicante, one of the oldest in Spain. Another is in Sierra Nevada where the Three Kings (Wise Men) can be seen to ski down to the village from the mountaintops.

6th January – This is the Feast of the Epiphany (Día de Los Reyes Magos) when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem. For many Spanish children, this is still the most important day of the year when they wake up to find that Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings/Wise Men) have left gifts for them in their house. Santa may leave them some token gifts on December 25th but the Three Kings are their favourites, but this may not be the case in years to come, Santa is gaining ground on the Kings. During the day of 6th, the Three Kings continue their good work and are seen distributing gifts to children in hospitals all over Spain.

7th January – The day after receiving their gifts children return to school, their parents go back to work and Christmas in Spain is all over for another year.

Depending on where you are this Christmas ...


“Feliz Navidad” from Spain
“Bon Nadal” from Catalonia and Valencia
“Gabon Zoriontsuak” from the Basque Country
“Bo Nadal” from Galicia

 


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