A trip to Spain, the perfect Christmas gift
Christmas tree at Puerta del Sol square in Madrid.
Christmas is all but upon us. A time for traditions, celebration, gifts and, above all, joy. Come and spend Christmas in Spain and discover how we celebrate here, with the day of the “Santos Inocentes” (28th December, with April Fools’ style tricks), living cribs, family dinners, Three Kings’ parades, New Year’s grapes… A host of customs that you will love and will ensure the most exciting of holidays.
Should you decide to spend you Christmas in Spain you will find a country transformed. At this time of year, all the streets and shops here are decorated with coloured lights and Christmas trees, and the cities are filled with bustle and happiness. Would you like to know which celebrations are not to be missed, and everything that you can do? Take note.
Dates not to be missed
The first special date is 22 December with the draw for the Christmas Lottery - almost everyone in Spain takes part and prizes are celebrated in style out in the streets. The next big days are definitely the most family-oriented and are 24 and 25 December: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Normally, families get together for dinner and lunch on these two days, and prepare traditional dishes such as lamb and sea bream along with seasonal desserts such as turrón (rich sweet made with almonds), polvorones (crumbly shortbread) and marzipan. You can find these delicious menus at a large number of restaurants and hotels across Spain, and discover the country’s gastronomy in the best way possible. You may also be interested in attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, very popular amongst Catholics to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
The most entertaining day comes on 28 December with the Day of the Santos Inocentes, when people play pranks similar to those of April Fools’ Day. For this, the best thing is to buy novelty items at street markets such as the one at Plaza Mayor Square in Madrid. People say goodbye to the year with the New Year’s Eve celebrations on 31 December. To get involved, don’t forget to buy 12 grapes in advance. Why? According to Spanish tradition, everyone has to eat one grape in time with the striking of the clock at midnight. If you manage to eat them all on time, you will have a New Year full of luck. Although the New Year is broadcast on television, you will have an amazing time if you head for the main squares of towns and cities, normally the location of their clock towers. One of the most emblematic places to experience the celebration? Following the clock at Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid. There you will find thousands of people decked out with hats and squawkers joyfully toasting and welcoming in the New Year. Later on you can join one of the many parties held until dawn at hotels, bars and clubs throughout Spain.
To ensure smiles on the children’s faces at Christmas, nothing better than the Three Kings Parade held on 5 January, the day before the feast of the Three Kings. In Spain it is the three Wise Men of the East, Melchoir, Caspar and Balthazar, who bring Christmas presents to children who have been good. Three Kings Parades, with their page-boys, camels and all kinds of weird and wonderful characters, make their way though the streets of villages, towns and cities all over Spain, to then leave gifts and toys at the houses. They are all spectacular, but special mention should be made of the one in Alcoi, in the province of Alicante, one of the oldest in Spain.
Plans for your Christmas holidays
As you can see, there are many important dates on the calendar. Furthermore, however, you will find something interesting to do on any day over Christmas. Here are a few options:
-Visit one of the living cribs (Nativity scenes with real people) to be found in villages and towns around Spain. Shepherds, oxen, mules and the baby Jesus himself will greet you as if you had travelled back in time. -Make the most of the opportunity to go shopping. Here are three reasons: there are many traditional street markets held in historic centres at this time of year; shops have extended opening times, with a host of ideas for the perfect gift; and from 1 January, the sales start. -Go skiing at one of Spain’s resorts for a real White Christmas -Do you prefer the good weather? Then choose the Canary Islands to celebrate Christmas and have a swim at the beach. -And last but not least, dance, play the “zambomba” (type of drum), sing traditional carols, watch children asking passers-by for the “aguinaldo” (coins or sweets in exchange for songs)… In short, let yourself be carried away by Spain’s deep-rooted Christmas traditions.
Rafa Pérez. Patronato de Turismo de la Costa Blanca
Ayuntamiento de Santillana del Mar