It´s creeping up to that time of the year again when the Christmas trees are put up along with all the other decorations and lights. The season to be jolly; as it were. Families gather together from all around and let’s be truthful, we all get that warm fuzzy feeling around this time of year, despite the scrooges that surround some people. But let’s stay cheerful… here are some Spanish Christmas traditions that make this time of year that little bit extra special. Some general information, pictures, places to go, recipes, etc..
Typically leading up to Christmas you will find most homes, gardens, local shopping centres will decorate their greenery areas with the flower of the Christmas season: the Poinsettia. The local towns set up nativity displays (known as ‘Belenes’) in their local square by the church. This especially brings locals to gather around to sing Christmas carols or hymns on Christmas Eve (‘nochebuena’). In the regions of Catalonia & Valencia it is an absolute tradition to have an essential nativity figure, amongst the nativity scene, known as ´Cagener´, a person dressed in rustic attire, hidden in the corner crouching down somewhere. His presence is said to have been connected to a symbol of good luck, his absence of which means the opposite. Spectators find it a challenge to find him, a tradition dating back to the 18th century.
– Part of the Nativity scene in Torrevieja square.
A long standing Catholic tradition, later adopted by the Christians, is the Christmas wreath; four candles sat in a circular shape wreath made up of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even the evergreens have a meaning. The Laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering, Cedar signifies strength and healing and Holly, Pine and Yew; immortality. A tradition that represents each week being one thousand years amounting up to the 4.000 years from Adam & Eve, until the birth of our Saviour. Three candles are purple and one is rose pink. As the years have passed many people opt for white candles instead. A modern adaption is to place a fifth candle in the centre of the wreath to represent Christ and it is lit on Christmas Eve.
During December you will find there are lots of people buying tickets for the El Gordo lottery. Most of whom have saved throughout the year putting change in a pot so they can buy more tickets as a whole, bettering their chances of winning. The tickets are not cheap though, averaging around 20€ per ticket. It is one of the largest lotteries in the world with most of the country taking part. El Gordo is drawn over many hours on the night of December 22nd with thousands of people winning every year.
On Christmas Eve, Spain pretty much celebrates it in the same style as in England or Scotland or Ireland and many other parts of Europe; families come round to celebrate with food and drink, with dishes from meat to fish being served alongside tapas and salads. This celebration would normally end up in a bar or hotel for drinks, carrying on the festivities into the early hours. The chosen dish on Christmas Eve or Christmas day is Pavo trufado de Navidad (Christmas turkey with truffles). Game is normally eaten but turkey is proving to be more popular, Here is the link of the recipe Pavo trufado de Navidad.
-A variety of Polvorones sold in the local supermarkets.
Christmas Day is celebrated the same as us Brits, but everyone is on the mend from the night before. With Santa (or Papa Noel) having come in the night with a gift or two, children are ecstatic with delight. Now the traditional food is being prepared for a long feast for the day ahead.Most of the presents though, here in Spain, are held for the Three Kings/Wise Men (Los Tres Reyes Magos), celebrated on the 5th & 6th of January.After Christmas day, the Spanish culture have a day of the Holy Innocents (Santos Inocentes), which falls on December 28th and is the equivalent to out British April Fools´ Day; a day full of practical jokes and jests. You had better have eyes in the back of your head on this day.Along comes the New Year…and celebrations are held all over, with the Spanish calling them ´fiestas cotillones´, which are little celebrations held over a few days at a time. It is tradition to eat 12 grapes at Midnight on New Years Eve (´NocheVieja´), one for each chime of the bell, also known as (los 12 Uvas de la Suerte). With fireworks and festive party bags for everyone consisting of a party hat, whistle and some streamers, the party then carries on into the early hours of New Years Day (El Dia del Año Nuevo). Traditional sweets or desserts often enjoyed by many over the Christmas period are Turron, Marzipan and Polvorones (a powdery bite size biscuit made of almonds, flour and sugar).
-The start of the Procession of The Three Kings in Alicante.
On January 5th & 6th, Spain celebrates The Three Kings. On the 5th it is Kings Eve, this is the night that the children write a letter to the Kings (not Santa) asking them to bear them with gifts. This is also the night where in more or less every town or city in Spain have magnificent processions, parading up the main high street, made up of all sorts of characters and dancers, with musicians and bands leading the procession with a Virgin Mary, and not forgetting the Three Kings; Gaspar, Baltasar and Melchior. Children push and shove to get right to the front line where the Kings will throw sweets and sometimes little gifts out to the children in the crowd, which they would normally have a bag handy to collect them all. On the 6th January it is known as Kings Day, where in the night the Kings had, according to the story, arrived in Bethlehem and is known as ´Epiphany´. The children wake up on this morning with gifts and sweets brought to them from the Kings. It is said the naughty children were given some coal instead (black sugar shaped as coal).
On Kings Eve or Kings day it is tradition to eat ´Kings cake´ or ´Roscon de Reyes´ which is like a big bagel style bread cut horizontally in half and filled with either cream, chocolate cream or custard. Spinkled on top is sugar and sliced almonds, with chunks of glazed coloured fruit with a decorative gold crown to represent the Kings. In the cream filling, it is said that when you find the figurine then you are the winner, but if you find the whole almond then you have lost and must buy the Kings cake the following year. A little game all the family can enjoy. I know I´ve lost a couple of times, I enjoyed the cake though!
After this day is over, on the 7th of January, its back to the normal routine of life, school, work,etc.
At least for another year…!
* Over the Christmas season there will be loads to do, fun activities for the kids, shows, visits to see Santa etc. Loads will be happening and these are just a few we have found out about so far…
Casa de la Pedrera are hosting a ´Santa´s Christmas childrens trail´ a fun activity that kids and adults can enjoy and take part together
….How the Grinch Stole Christmas Theme..from 1pm- 4pm
Tuesday December 6th Constitution Day
Thursday December 8th Immaculate Conception Day
Sundays December 4,11 & 18
CHRISTMAS STARTS RIGHT HERE: with our ‘Grinch Stole Christmas Trail Follow our special ‘Grinch Inspired Trail Map’ and journey throughout the gardens and visit the Grinch’s Lair and many other surprises along the way. A fun, interactive trail designed for parents and children to do together with a treat at the end for each participating child! BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL!
Children 10€ and Accompanying Adults 3€.
NEW YEAR’S PARTY
Celebrate the New Year in style with our New Year’s ‘Round the World Party’ on the hour every hour from 9pm through to midnight. Start celebrating with us and with different countries all over the world and end with Spain and the 12 grapes tradition and of course Fireworks and Auld Lang Syne. Plenty of dancing, fun and Live Entertainment the whole night through – A Buffet is included as is glasses of Cava for Toasting. Booking is Essential. Tickets are limited at 30€ per person. Please call Jenni on 660816620 for booking or [email protected].
If you are looking for something different maybe try and keep an eye on the local papers & radio as to the date and times this year of the Christmas Carol singing in the church square in Torrevieja, (we are not aware of times and dates at this present time).
La Zenia Boulevard have a lot going on, Santa Claus and his Elves will be visiting all the children, with a chance for them to see him in his little workshop outside Primark. The Boulevard always makes an effort for Christmas and will always have an activity of some sort located in the car park outside of Leroy Merlin; the first 2 years it was an ice skating rink, last year they had a big wheel with lights and children’s sledging in the central area near the fountains. So I can´t wait to see what they are going to do this year.
Our December blog, ´What’s on at the Boulevard this Christmas´ will let you know all the goings on through out the Christmas season.