How Christmas is Celebrated in Spain?

Holidays and Celebrations

Christmas is a joyous and festive time of the year, celebrated with great enthusiasm and traditions in different countries around the world. In Spain, Christmas is a deeply rooted religious and cultural holiday, filled with unique customs and rituals that make it a truly special time for Spaniards. Let’s delve into the details of how Christmas is celebrated in Spain.

1. Christmas Season

The Christmas season in Spain officially begins on December 8th, with the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and lasts until January 6th, known as Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day. It is a time when families come together, streets are adorned with lights and decorations, and the festive spirit fills the air.

1.1 Nativity Scenes

Nativity scenes, known as “Belenes” in Spain, are an essential part of the Christmas decorations. These elaborate scenes depict the birth of Jesus and are often displayed in homes, churches, and public places. Many cities also set up large nativity scenes in prominent locations, attracting locals and tourists alike.

1.2 Christmas Markets

During the Christmas season, vibrant markets known as “Mercadillos Navideños” pop up across Spain. These markets offer a wide variety of goods, including traditional crafts, decorations, sweets, and gifts. They are a popular destination for locals and visitors to soak in the festive atmosphere and find unique presents.

2. Christmas Eve: Nochebuena

Christmas Eve, known as Nochebuena, is one of the most important nights of the Christmas celebrations in Spain. Families gather for a special dinner, often consisting of traditional dishes and delicacies.

2.1 Traditional Spanish Dishes

One of the highlights of a Spanish Christmas dinner is the variety of delicious traditional dishes served. Some common favorites include:

  • Turrón: A nougat made with almonds and honey.
  • Bacalao: Salted codfish prepared in various ways.
  • Pavo Trufado de Navidad: Turkey stuffed with truffles.
  • Polvorones: Traditional Spanish shortbread cookies.

2.2 Midnight Mass: La Misa del Gallo

Attending the Midnight Mass, known as “La Misa del Gallo,” is a cherished tradition for many Spaniards. It is a solemn and beautiful service held in churches across the country, commemorating the birth of Jesus. The mass often features traditional Christmas carols and hymns sung by the congregation.

3. Christmas Day: Dia de Navidad

Christmas Day in Spain is a time for family gatherings and celebrations. It is a day to enjoy good food, exchange gifts, and spend quality time together.

3.1 The Christmas Lottery: El Gordo

The Christmas Lottery, known as “El Gordo,” is an annual event held on December 22nd. It is one of the world’s oldest and largest lotteries, with a prize pool that reaches billions of euros. The draw is broadcasted on national television, and the winning numbers are eagerly awaited by millions of Spaniards.

3.2 Traditional Spanish Lunch

On Christmas Day, a festive lunch is usually enjoyed with family and friends. The menu often includes a variety of dishes, such as roasted meats, seafood, and Spanish specialties like paella. Desserts like “Roscón de Reyes,” a ring-shaped cake with candied fruits, are also commonly served.

4. Three Kings’ Day: Dia de los Reyes Magos

While Christmas Day marks the end of the holiday season for many countries, in Spain, the celebrations continue until January 6th, known as Three Kings’ Day or Dia de los Reyes Magos. This day is highly anticipated, especially by children, as it is when gifts are traditionally exchanged.

4.1 Procession of the Three Kings

In cities and towns across Spain, vibrant processions take place on the evening of January 5th. The Three Kings, or Los Reyes Magos, parade through the streets on elaborately decorated floats, tossing sweets and small gifts to the crowds. Children eagerly await their arrival, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Kings and collect some treats.

4.2 The Three Kings’ Gifts

Instead of Santa Claus, it is the Three Kings who bring gifts to children in Spain. On the night of January 5th, children leave their shoes by the doorstep, along with some water and food for the Kings’ camels. In the morning, they wake up to find presents left by the Kings as a reward for their good behavior.

5. Other Spanish Christmas Traditions

In addition to the main celebrations, Spain has several unique Christmas traditions that vary by region:

5.1 Caga Tió

In Catalonia, a popular tradition involves a character called “Caga Tió.” It is a small wooden log decorated with a face and a traditional hat. Children “feed” the log in the days leading up to Christmas, and on Christmas Eve, they beat it with sticks to make it “poop” small gifts and sweets.

5.2 La Quema del Diablo

On the night of December 28th, in Guatemala and some parts of Spain, a tradition known as “La Quema del Diablo” (The Burning of the Devil) takes place. It involves burning effigies of the devil to symbolize the cleansing of evil spirits and the start of a new year.

6. Conclusion

Christmas in Spain is a time of joy, family togetherness, and rich traditions. From the elaborate nativity scenes and vibrant Christmas markets to the delicious traditional dishes and unique celebrations of Three Kings’ Day, the Spanish Christmas experience is truly special. It is a time when the spirit of giving and spreading happiness fills the hearts of Spaniards, creating cherished memories for years to come.


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