Christmas in Spain

spanish culture Dec 21, 2020

Christmas is a wonderful and very long festive period in Spain, where the main focus is to spend time gathering with family and good friends while eating copious amounts of food! lol

From late November, nativity scenes, Christmas lights, and other traditions start in the build up to Nochebuena, the 24th of December. But before that, on the 22nd there is the hugely popular “Lotería de Navidad” (Christmas lottery). Around 75% of Spaniards enter this lottery, which is the biggest ticket-based lottery draw in the world! The biggest prize is called “El Gordo” (the Fat One) and the combined prize fund is more than €2 billion each year. So if you happen to be in Spain around the time, you may want to consider getting a ticket!

Los mercados de Navidad, or Christmas markets in all big towns and cities are a great opportunity to feel the Christmas spirit. There you can find from Christmas decorations, gifts, or foods to fancy dress outfits and joke items! In fact, during the festive season, it is very common to see groups of friends wearing big wigs and other costumes in the city centres. 

Also, building your own nativity scene at home is a popular Christmas tradition, in Spanish called el Belén and los mercados de Navidad usually sell everything you need from miniature figurines to moss and straw for the manger.

You’re probably aware that food plays a huge part in Spanish culture at any time of the year. But Christmas is really the time when Spaniards buy and serve the highest quality foods they can afford. Seafood and deli foods are the order of the day and in high demand, so prices go through the roof! But families are prepared to spend more on food during this period and less on other things like house decorations and small gifts compared to the UK for example. 

People rarely eat turkey or a set meal any of the festive days, but rather a selection of high quality meats, fish, seafood and plenty of other delicious fresh produce to choose from at the markets. 

The most popular sweet treat is called turrón and it's everywhere at Christmas time. It’s like nougat and the choice of flavours is incredible! Every Spanish household has a plate with a selection of turrón and other sweets and any excuse for a little bit here and there is a good one!

While Christmas Day, día de Navidad, is a special day to celebrate and gather, it’s not the main day for presents. Instead, the 24th and 25th are days for feasting with family and close friends with the 24th being the most important night to spend with family enjoying a big meal. 

However, El día de Reyes (Kings´ Day) or the 6th of January is when people mostly get their presents in Spain. In recent times Papá Noel, or Father Christmas, has also become popular and pays a visit in some houses on Christmas day too, but most families follow the tradition on the 6th of January.

The evening of the 5th is a very magical night and the majority of towns and cities across Spain organise a large parade to welcome the arrival of the 3 Kings, los Reyes Magos. Children and people of all ages gather to greet them as they throw sweets and treats to those present. This parade is called la cabalgata, and it’s definitely worth seeing if you’re in Spain on the 5th of January, particularly in big cities. 

And, because there is no festivity in Spain without food to go with it, it is customary to eat a special pastry known as Roscón de Reyes, a circular pastry filled with cream and covered with colorful candied fruit and almond flakes… Truly delicious!

Obviously this year won’t be the same, but I’m sure we can still find plenty of enjoyment and festive cheer :)

Feliz Navidad,

Cristina & Pete

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