Rayos de sol
Rayos de sol
Rayos de sol

Christmas in the sun: how do Spaniards celebrate the holidays?

Dec 18, 2018

Decorating the Christmas tree on a warm, sunny day? Celebrating New Year’s in a t-shirt and shorts? Both are certainly possible if you live in southern Spain. In December, it’s not unusual for it to be more than 20 degrees C! But it isn’t just the weather that might surprise you; the customs might catch you off guard as well. How do Spaniards celebrate the holidays?

Christmas in Spain

In Spain, Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) is the most important part of the Christmas holidays. Families come to together, enjoying a big, relaxed meal and a good glass of cava. People often go to evening mass before this dinner. Since Christmas is a family celebration, many restaurants are closed during that evening. It is certainly something you should take into account if you live in Spain! 25 December is another big day for the family. Spaniards meet up to have lunch or whole families put their hands together and set up a wonderful Christmas stand. Even though gifts were traditionally not given until Three Kings’ Day Papa Noel (Spain’s name for Santa Claus) has been getting more and more restless each year and cannot wait, leaving behind a few surprises underneath the tree on Christmas day.

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12 grapes - out with the old, in with the new

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Most Spaniards count down to the new year (Nochevieja) by following the live broadcast of a TV programme recorded in Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid. This square is filled to the brim with people who have dressed up to come and celebrate together. Once the clock at the city hall strikes 12, Spaniards eat a grape with each bell strike (las Uvas de la Suerte). As New Year’s Eve approaches, special cans with 12 grapes will begin to appear in supermarkets. Of course, these are all pitted: nobody wants an accident to happen. What happens if you manage to eat a grape each time the bell rings? You can expect a wonderful new year filled with success and happiness. ¡Feliz ańo nuevo!

Three Kings’ Day, the children’s festival

The feast of the Three Kings (Reyes Magos) is celebrated in Spain on a large scale. It truly is a festival for children that begins on 5 January with a colourful parade called ‘Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos’. The three kings typically arrive on horseback or on a horse-drawn carriage and they throw toys and sweets to the swarms of people along the route. Children love it, because they get to be spoiled with sweets by the kings. They also stuff their shoes with hay for the camels of the kings and leave them by the fireplace in hope that they will receive a wonderful gift. In order to close out the celebration, 6 January begins with a breakfast that includes ‘Roscón de Reyes’, a round cake with pieces of fruit that symbolise the precious gems of the kings. After that, it’s a peaceful stroll towards springtime and summer, a time when - if it's even possible - Spain is even sunnier and more inclined to celebrate.

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