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Thursday, December 27, 2012 (read 12077 times)

Christmas Traditions in Spain

by Kimberly

There are a few interesting customs that make Navidad in Spain so unique, and keep the merriment going in between the religious celebrations that make up this holiday season. Spanish Christmas traditions are closely linked with the Catholic customs, and with festivities running from the beginning of December until Epiphany, the 6th of January.

Christmas traditions in Spain begin on the 8th of December, with the Immaculada, which is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. As Spain’s patron Saint, the Virgin Mary plays an important part in Spanish festive customs. This day also marks the beginning of the religious Christmas traditions in Spain. Christmas trees are common throughout Spain, as are elaborate nativity scenes called Belénes, which always includes the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Three Kings.

The 21st and 22nd of December are non-Catholic Christmas celebrations in Spain. The celebration of Hogueras takes place on the 21st, the winter solstice or the shortest night of the year, and this tradition actually predates the religious festivities. People jump through bonfires as symbolic protection against illness. The following day sees a Christmas tradition in Spain that dates back to 1812. El Gordo, (the fat one) is the Christmas lottery draw, where,besides the three big prizes there are thousands of smaller prizes won all over Spain.

December 24th, or the Nochebuena, is perhaps the most important of the Spanish Christmas traditions. The Christmas Eve National Speech, called the el Discurso Nacional in Spain, has been broadcast by King Juan Carlos I every year since 1975. Traditional Christmas food in Spain largely depends on the region, but Pavo Trufado de Navidad (Christmas turkey with truffles) is a typical main course, followed by deserts of figuras de mazapán(marzipan figures), polvorones (crumbly cinnamon cakes),or turrón(a sweet almond nougat). These sweets are an essential part of the Spanish Christmas tradition.  At midnight, the church bells toll, and families go to ‘La Misa Del Gallo’ (The Mass of the Rooster). According to the old Spanish verse, Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no es noche de dormir (It’s Christmas Eve, so it’s not a night for sleeping)!

Christmas Day is spent at church and with family. The 25th is not as important to the Spanish as Christmas Eve. The 28th of December is known as the day of Santos Inocentes (or Holy Innocents Day). This is the Spanish equivalent of April Fools' Day when people play practical jokes on one another, and even the Spanish media get involved.  NocheVieja , New Year’s Eve in Spain carries traditions of its own. On the stroke of midnight 12 grapes are eaten, (las uvas de la suerte) one on each chime, to bring luck for the incoming year.

On January 6th the Feast of the Epiphany marks the end of Christmas traditions in Spain, and is celebrated as the day when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem.  While Santa Claus leaves something small for children on the 25thLos Reyes Magos traditionally bring gifts in Spain. There are parades the day before to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings and in the evening Spanish children leave their shoes full of straw for the Kings’ donkeys to eat. By morning, presents have appeared there.

The Roscón de Reyes ends the Spanish Christmas traditions; this is ring-shaped cake which is decorated with glace fruits to symbolize the jewels of the Three Kings. Inside, there is a broad bean and a small figure. Christmas tradition dictates that "si es el haba lo encontrado el Roscón pagarás; más si ello es la figura, coronado y Rey serás..." which means that whoever finds the vegetable has to pay for the cake, whereas the one who finds the figurine is crowned King for the day.

Keywords: navidad, christmas in spain, christmas in spain, spanish christmas, navidad en españa, christmas traditions in spain, spanish christmas traditions, nochevieja, spanish new year's eve

Posted In: Spain, Culture


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