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Spanish Christmas traditions

Christmas in Spain for Spaniards is about family, fellowship and vacation, not unlike what we are used to back home. But some traditions are different.

Nativity scene at the church in Mijas Pueblo

Nativity scene at the church in Mijas Pueblo

Spain is a deeply Catholic country and obviously this colours the Christmas celebrations. One of the main Christmas symbols in Spain is el Belén – the nativity scene. Such are found in most Spanish homes and in many public places. The main square in most cities in Spain usually have a nativity scene and these can be an amazing sight.

The Christmas story is ofte performed by local actors, where you meet Mary and Joseph, the Three Wise Men and animals that are associated with the story of Jesus’ birth.

Noche Buena – Christmas Eve is not a red day in Spain, but has recently got a bigger impact on Spaniards’ Christmas. It’s a family night where families gather for a meal enjoying their traditional dishes. What is being served varies between region and families. But generally it is lamb, suckling pig, duck and plenty of seafood. For dessert it is quite often watermelon while the coffee is being served sweets such as turron and marzipan.

All towns have one or more christmas trees.

All towns have one or more christmas trees.

In Spain, it has previously not been a tradition with Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but rather it is on 6 January (Día de los Reyes) that presents are being opened. But the influence from the outside world has left its mark, so now it is quite common with a small amount of gifts even on Christmas eve. After the Christmas meal there is the midnight mass – La Misa del Gallo – to celebrate that Jesus was born.

Christmas Day is a public holiday in the whole Christian world, even in Spain. The family often gathers for companionship from morning to late evening. The highlight is the Christmas lunch. There is no set traditions for what is being served, but it is usually a meat dish. In the afternoon one relaxes with the family. Nightlife is usually quite limited on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These are family days and restaurants are focusing on the large family gatherings or remain closed.

Boxing Day is not celebrated in Spain, but is a normal day for the Spaniards.

Christmas Markets are found everywhere, this one is in Málaga.

Christmas Markets are found everywhere, this one is in Málaga.

The 28th of December is not a public holiday, but is still a special day. It’s “Día de los Santos Inocentes” the innocent saints’ day. It is in memory of King Herod who ordered that all children in Judea under two years to be killed to prevent that Jesus grew up. In Spain this is the same as our April 1st. Then everybody are tricking each other – even in the media. On this day you must take all the “strange” news with a big grain of salt.

On Noche Vieja – New Year’s Eve, most people are staying at home until just before midnight enjoying a good meal with family and friends. At midnight everybody gather on the city’s central square and eat 12 grapes while the church bells are chiming and everybody are drinking Cava. Then there is a New Year celebration all night long. Most night clubs and bars are open. Many restaurants offer a New Years menu.

New Year's Eve on the square in a Spanish city. All images are clickable. Photo: Erixon Consulting.

New Year’s Eve on the square in a Spanish city. All images are clickable. Photo: Erixon Consulting.

In Spain Christmas lasts until January 6th, and there is also a lot going on – but more on that after the New Year. We in Megafon wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The news will come back on December 28th and we promise that we will not be fool you on that day (maybe).