You may be wondering why you are reading an article about Christmas in Spain in October. Well let's just say that this is a sign of the times. This will be our fifth Christmas in Spain and we have seen some changes over the past few years.
Our first Christmas in Spain was a bit of a disaster, turkeys were a bit thin on the ground and because we didn't manage to pick one up in Gibraltar we ended up buying one last minute in Mercadona which was pretty foul to say the least (pardon the pun).
Since that turkey I was put off buying one from there again so in previous years we have just got ours in Morrison's in Gibraltar. However, today there are lots of butchers on the coast that will order and prepare your turkey for you for Christmas. Maybe they were around at the time but we were new and hadn't sussed out what was what yet.
Getting back to the point, Christmas in Spain seems to be starting a couple of weeks earlier every year. Okay, it hasn't got to UK extremes where people have all their presents bought and wrapped in August but I did spot an advent calendar in a garage during the first week in September over here. It was a bit of a surprise and I can only think that it was a stray that had been left over from last year.
But already you can see the supermarkets are starting to clear spaces in the aisles and on the shelves to make space for the toys. Carrefour at the moment is still in back to school mode, then it will be Halloween (really taken off over the last couple of years in Spain) then Christmas all the way. Last year was the first time that I saw packs of Christmas cards in Spain.
This year businesses and the like are wisening up to the commercialisation of Spanish Christmas and spotting opportunities. Take for example Isla Magica in Seville, like all theme parks, zoos etc it has always only ever opened during the summer period. I have always wondered why they don't open all year around because although you get your wet weekends there are also lots of weekends especially over the Christmas period when the weather is perfect for theme parks, gloriously sunny but not unbearably hot as it is in the height of summer. The staying indoors during Christmas traditions are breaking, as they have done in the UK, people want to escape their houses and do things.
It is true to say that there is still a very strong religious presence to Christmas in Spain. People go to church, all children know who Jesus is and the Belen is still a more important feature in the home than the Christmas tree. However, the Christmas tree is rapidly gaining popularity and last year the shops sold accessories in colour schemes and all kinds of trendy adornos so the "keeping up with the Jones's" element of it is coming into play too. People are putting lights outside the fronts of their houses although nowhere near the extent of the winter wonderlands that you see across the streets in the UK.
With regards to gift giving in Spain, bigger is better every time. When you see the Spanish out Christmas shopping, the boxes in their trolleys are always gigantic. If you are thinking about coming out to do your Christmas shopping but dread the thought of having to wrap the presents then Spain is certainly for you! What you will save in wrapping paper will almost pay for your flight because here in Spain they wrap all the presents for you in the shops. I do feel sorry for those Corte Ingles sales girls toppling over on their ladders trying to wrap the gigantic boxes with their king size sheets of gift wrap.
If you are thinking of coming to Spain but you are on a diet then Spain is not for you. Why? Because there are too many unfamiliar Christmas foodie temptations of which most do not have the calorie contents printed on them such as polvorones, mantecados, turron and if you have the stomach for it and probably better for those controlling the carbs, baby suckling pig!
Now, I know that the build up to Christmas in the UK is huge and for many irritating, but at least by the 26th it is all done and over with but spare a thought for us lot in Spain who have to do it all over again.
Whilst those of your back home are busy stowing away your trees and boxes of tinsel, although I hear that it is considered very passé, we are doing it all over again on the 6th for Los Reyes. If you think back to everything that you have been through leading up to Christmas and the whole Christmas day extravaganza, well just when you thought it was safe, imagine having to do it all over again!!!
Honestly, once New Year is done and dusted, going for it one third and final time is the last thing you want to do but there's no choice because it is in full swing everywhere you go, shopping centres, supermarkets, on television if you don't have satellite. It’s a veritable Ground Hog Christmas nightmare!!!
Some might argue, just pick one and celebrate it, you don't have to do both. Oh but what else is there to do when everything closes down for three days again in January? I want to be getting on with my New Year's resolutions and seeking out the bargains in the sales which incidentally don't get going until mid January. I mean what about post Christmas DIY, that would go down a hit in Spain? I have seen the Spanish after any bank holiday, they can't get enough of Leroy Merlin.
So be warned, if you are considering popping out for some post UK Christmas sun of which there usually is here at that time of year, we will be celebrating our Christmas.....again! I know that many of you will be looking for flights for around this time of year so I wouldn't want you to land and find that everything is closed at the beginning of January and that things don't get back to normal until about the 8th.
If you want to come out to escape the UK Christmas period then certainly come to Spain for a change. It might not be the Christmas that you are used to now but it may be more on a par with Christmas in the UK a decade ago in terms of commercialisation. And remember if you are bringing children out that Isla Magica will be open if they get bored!