Christmas in Spain is celebrated with a unique blend of religious traditions, cultural customs, and a strong sense of family togetherness. It is one of the most significant and cherished holidays in the country. Here's how Christmas is typically celebrated in Spain:
Nativity scenes, known as "belenes" or "pesebres," are an essential part of Christmas celebrations in Spain. These scenes often include intricate depictions of the Holy Family, shepherds, angels, and the Three Wise Men. In some regions, life-sized nativity scenes are displayed in public squares.
Homes, streets, and towns are beautifully decorated with festive lights, ornaments, and Christmas trees. Many Spanish families have a "Christmas Star" or "Estrella de Navidad" at the top of their Christmas trees.
The Christmas season begins with Advent, and many Spanish households have Advent calendars and Advent wreaths. The lighting of Advent candles is a common tradition.
Christmas Eve, or "Nochebuena," is the most important night of the holiday season. Families come together for a festive meal, which typically features dishes like roast lamb, seafood, and other traditional Spanish specialties. It is a time for joy, togetherness, and the exchange of gifts.
Attending the Midnight Mass, known as "La Misa del Gallo" (The Rooster's Mass), is an integral part of the celebration, with many people gathering at churches to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
Exchanging gifts is an important part of the Christmas celebration in Spain. Children often receive gifts from "Papá Noel" (Father Christmas) or "Los Reyes Magos" (the Three Wise Men) on January 6th.
Caroling, or "villancicos," is a cherished tradition in Spain. Groups of carolers, often children, visit homes and sing traditional Christmas carols. They are usually rewarded with sweets, money, or small gifts.
Many Spaniards participate in acts of charity during the Christmas season, helping those in need and supporting local charities and community organizations.
On December 28th, Spain celebrates the "Día de los Santos Inocentes," a day similar to April Fools' Day in which people play pranks and jokes on one another.
The holiday season in Spain extends to the Feast of the Epiphany, or "Día de los Reyes" (Three Kings' Day) on January 6th. It is marked by parades and the exchange of gifts, particularly for children.
Spain is a diverse country with various regional customs. For example, in Catalonia, a "Caga Tió" or "Tió de Nadal" is a log that "defecates" small gifts, and in the Basque Country, "Olentzero" is a traditional figure who delivers presents.
The Spanish Christmas Lottery, known as "El Gordo," is a massive national lottery drawing on December 22nd. It is a highly anticipated event, and winning the lottery can bring substantial financial rewards.
Christmas in Spain is a time for faith, tradition, and family. The combination of religious customs, vibrant decorations, and a rich culinary heritage creates a warm and joyful atmosphere during the holiday season, making it a special time for both Spaniards and visitors to the country.
Christmas Day in Spain is observed on the 25th of December, as in most other countries of the world.
Here, the Christmas season officially begins with December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is a public holiday in Spain. Every year, the occassion is celebrated before the great Gothic cathedral in Seville with a ceremony called "Los Seises" or the "dance of six." It is literally a dance performance, though not of six, but ten boys in elaborate costumes making beautiful rythmic movements.
Christmas here is not as huge a commercial occasion as in most other western nations. Virgin Mary is the patron saint of Spain and hence, Christmas is observed here with great devotion and piety. It is a religious festival with an adequate measure of festive excitement. In the main cities, stores are beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and stuffed with Christmas supplies from the first week of December. Christmas trees come up in almost every home across the country from the second half of December. Also to be found in every household are beautiful mini-sized "Belénes" or Nativity scenes. The Belén typically includes baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Three Kings, Baltasar, Melchior and Gaspar. It depicts life in the village where Jesus was born.
Christmas Eve in Spain is known as "Nochebuena" or "Good Night." It is a time for family gatherings. Family members come together for joyous feasting and merrymaking during this time. In the evening, people go out to have a few drinks with friends and rush back to enjoy mouthwatering dishes with the family. Naturally, most bars and restaurants pull down their shutters in the evening. Christmas dinner is never eaten until after midnight. A typical Spanish Christmas dinner begins with the serving of prawn
followed by a roasted lamb. The dessert is traditionally a Christmas sweet, either the "turrón" - a nougat made of toasted sweet almonds or the "Polvorone", made from almonds, flour and sugar. The meal is consumed to the accompaniment of fine Spanish wines. Cava, a Catalan champagne, is generally the chosen drink for the Christmas toast. The feast is followed by family members gathering around the Christmas tree and singing Christmas carols and hymns of Christendom. The merrymaking often continues until daybreak.
On Christmas Day, families visit local churches to attend the religious services. The feasting and rejoicing goes on on this day also. Families have a grand lunch on the afternoon of Christmas Day. A unique custom here is the hanging of swings throughout the courtyards and young people riding them with much joy. Children recieve a small gift on the 25th morning but they have to wait till the 6th of January(Epiphany) to get their actual presents, supposedly from the Three Wise Men(not Santa Claus) who are said to leave gifts for kids on the latters' shoes on the Eve of Epiphany, January 5th.
Christmas Day is a national holiday in Spain. Hence, almost all shops remain closed on this day.