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Wednesday, December 24, 2014 (read 382 times)

No Presents For You!

by David

Spanish Christmas

Spain is a country that celebrates the holidays a little differently. For those visiting this country one of the things that surprises a lot of people is that on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there are no gifts for you.

Christmas Eve or Noche Buena is an evening that is spent having a meal with friends and family in an intimate setting and enjoying their company. Here, Noche Buena is low-key family event and gifts are saved for El Día de Reyes which falls on January 6—almost two weeks later! In Spain, the holiday season is a long affair indeed, beginning unofficially on the days between the 6th and 8th of December; these days bookend with one another since December 6 (Constitution Day) and December 8 (Immaculate Conception) are both holidays in Spain. Traditionally in Spain this Puente (long weekend for us Americans) is called the Puente de Diciembre. This is a time when people will take advantage of any unused vacation and take a nice off-season trip to another country or get in their first (or second) round of Christmas shopping.

This puente has changed a bit since the government amended some laws which let some businesses, especially retail, remain open on these holidays. Not very long ago, only bakers and newspaper vendors were the only people working on these days but given the economic situation, times are changing. From this moment until Reyes, cities and towns all over Spain will adorn their streets with festive lights and decorations and every plaza mayor (and not so mayor) will have a Christmas tree of some kind in its center. In some cities you will find traditional Christmas markets.

Christmas Day is another Day to be celebrated with family and it is not uncommon to have a large comida (lunch) with extended family and toast the day with friends at a local bar. For the kids it is a time for playing and hanging out together. For people close to the snow like in Granada, Pamplona, Madrid or Barcelona it is also a good time to go skiing. But in traditional families there won't be talk of Santa Claus or presents. That honor is reserved for the Reyes Magos.

New Year's for most people is spent at home enjoying the campanadas and eating the 12 grapes together with family. Only once New Year has begun will people begin to venture out to the city to celebrate. Contrary to Americans, at 2am the party is just getting started here! Still feeling the holiday spirit there is still almost a week to go until the coming of the 3 kings!

It is during this week that children (and some adults) become anxious for what the kings will bring them. Finally, on January 5 throughout Spain the three kings will appear in parades, town halls and neighborhood centers to give kids the presents they have been waiting for all year long. With this, the end of a long Christmas season slowly comes to an end and a year of anticipation, hopes and dreams begins anew.

The three kings have recently received some stiff competition from Santa Clause and their monopoly on the holidays in Spain seems to be coming to an end. One of the reasons why people are celebrating with Santa Clause is because they say that it gives children more time to play with their presents—for kids that receive a gift on Reyes, they only have 1 whole day to play with their gifts. Also the influence of marketing and the opportunity for businesses to sell for two holidays is a temptation too great to ignore in much the same way Halloween is competing with Carnival here. As an American living in Spain, I can say that I have some cultural justification to give (and receive) presents on Christmas with the hope that something will fall my way on Kings. But, as always, the gifts are irrelevant since the feeling of warmth that you get from being around family and friends lasts not just a day or two, but for almost a month—a truly unique and special time that transcends the holiday itself.

Now you know. When you come to celebrate the holidays in Spain, don't get your hopes up thinking there will be a mound of presents under the tree—if you even have one! Remember, this is the land of belenes or nativity scenes. Many homes, instead of a tree, put up a detailed miniature nativity scene which often times has elaborate lighting, running water along with motorized windmills, animals and people!

From all of us here at Spanish Unlimited, Happy Holidays!

Keywords: christmas in spain,holidays in spain,spanish christmas,spain christmas,americans living in spain

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