Culturally, Christmas in Spain is different from other European countries. With many exciting customs and activities, it is the calling for a surprising and active holiday’s celebration.
Colourful lights drape the cold country during the festive days of Christmas and spread warmth, glow and joyous vibes. Dressed in strings of colourful light, the dark corners and hidden alleys in Spain come to life during the festive season.
The gullies see people in a celebratory mood; there is the playing of kids, chatting of old friends, noise of the lottery buyers and hustle of people gathering goodies for a classic Christmas feast. People are out celebrating the festival with friends unlike other European countries where families choose to stay cosy in the comfort of their homes. If they do get together, it is for the gala dinner. Culturally, Christmas celebrations in Spain are very different from the rest of the Europe with varied customs and traditions in practice.
The Christmas fervour spreads in the air with the onset of December but the mega celebrations begin on the 22nd of the winter month. It is on this day that people draw the Christmas lottery, almost everyone does; they would either buy a ticket or put a share in someone’s ticket. The Spaniards are big fans of this tradition, the prizes of which are fancy and stylish. The top winners get their hands on some mega treats but the smaller prizes too are thoughtfully made, so it’s a merry time for all.
Following this are the Christmas-eve and the Christmas day on the 24th and the 25th. And it is not as if the celebrations are coming to an end; it is time for the pumping of the gala.
The Christmas-eve is usually set aside for big-fat-family-dinners. Families get together and enjoy traditional dishes of lamb and sea-bream. In a traditional practice, the meat is slow-cooked for hours and its stock served first as a soup. The meals, and definitely not the celebratory nights, are brought to an end with the sweetness of the seasonal dessert, turrón, a honey confection loaded with almonds; it is similar to the Indian chikki. The eve is celebrated across Spain with these elaborate traditional meals being served at a number of hotels and restaurants. Later, the Nochebuena or the midnight mass is something that most Catholics participate in to mark the birth of Jesus Christ.
After loitering around the lotteries and supping the fancy feasts, it’s time to immerse in the celebrations of the Christmas Day. Staying true to its culture of celebrating Christmas in a rather different manner, Spain sees open and full bars and restaurants on the day of the festival too. Although set meals are served at these eat-hops, they are fancier than an ordinary day’s meal.
That is not all when it comes to the cultural difference of Christmas celebrations in Spain. In its alleys and on its avenues, find children singing Christmas carols and asking for Aguinaldo – coins or sweets in exchange of songs. Sing a song and make merry or choose to spoil yourself at the traditional street markets set especially for Christmas. Head to the Fira de Santa Llúcia, a Christmas market set around the Gothic cathedral. And, if material treats don’t calm down your energetic nerves, climb atop a ski spot to experience a white Christmas.
Another day, another year
The myriad colours of culture in Spain don’t end with Christmas. On December 28, Spain celebrates the day of the Santos Inocentes, a day similar to the April Fool’s Day. To participate in the celebrations of this day, indulge in the buying of some novelty items at street markets such as the one at Plaza Mayor Square in Madrid.
Good times will roll by soon and the New Year’s Eve will be knocking at your door.
The New Year celebrations are equally unique and entertaining. The Nochevieja or the New Year’s eve is particularly interesting. A tradition asks one to eat twelve grapes, one by one, with every strike of the clock towards midnight. The best place to experience this tradition is at the Plaça Catalunya.
The festivities both halt and escalate on January 5 with the Three King’s Parade. It is on this day that the kids receive their gifts from the ‘three wise men of the east’, Melchoir, Caspar and Balthazar. It is celebrated a day before the feast of the three kings and the best of it can be witnessed in Alcoy, in the province of Alicante, one of the oldest in Spain.