Christmas is perhaps the most traditional, family-oriented celebration in the whole world, and in Spain it lasts until 6th January. Visiting the country between the middle of December and the start of the New Year is a time that’s always full of lovely moments for sharing. Here are five of the most popular Christmas traditions in Spain.
1.“El Gordo” Christmas lottery
The Christmas time festivities kick-start in Spain on 22nd December with the National Christmas Lottery. The first prize is popularly known as “El Gordo”. Participation is massive and the draw is closely followed throughout the morning. It has a peculiarity that makes it very special, the winning numbers are sung by children in an unmistakable chant. The prize money is very well spread out and the winners usually celebrate their glory in the street.
2. Meals bursting with Christmas flavours and lots of sweet treats
Christmas is a time for lavish meals with family and friends. The most special night is 24th December, Christmas Eve, when restaurants and hotels offer extraordinary menus to celebrate it in a big way. The meals normally include several starters, for example, Ibérico ham, seafood and delicious cheeses, followed by dishes such as soups, roast meat, fish or stuffed turkey. And to finish, sweet treats and desserts, the true stars of the Christmas dinner table. Turron, marzipan, Spanish sweets, shortbread and naturally, Epiphany cake are all delicacies not to be missed. You can learn more about Christmas food in Spain in this article.
3. Colourful Christmas lights
The festive lights in Spain are a delight for children and adults alike. Cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and Vigo have perhaps been the most eye-catching in recent years, but from the end of November, it is usual for all towns and cities to light up their streets with colours and Christmas motifs. In fact, a great idea to enjoy Christmas is to take a night-time stroll through the Christmas markets and Nativity scenes, wrapped up warm and with a handful of roast chestnuts from a street vendor.
4. The 12 most festive grapes of the year
This tradition promises luck and an original way to see in the New Year. It consists of eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve. The idea is to eat one grape for each chime to welcome in the New Year. You can follow the chimes of the famous Puerta del Sol clock in Madrid on television, live at the Puerta del Sol or in the iconic landmark where this tradition is celebrated in your destination. Any of these options are perfect for ringing in the New Year Spanish style.
5. A magical night full of excitement
On the night of 6th January the Three Wise Men arrive from the East and bring presents to all the children. It is traditional for every child to write a letter to the Wise Men beforehand telling them how they have behaved all year and requesting gifts. Special mailboxes are placed in shopping centres and leisure spaces for posting these letters and the ‘royal pages’ make frequent appearances to collect them by hand. Finally, on the afternoon of 5th January, the Wise Men arrive in all the cities in fun processions and parades through the streets to the delight of all the children. Then, after an early night and waiting excitedly for the morning to arrive, they finally get to open their presents. Their names are Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar and they magically enter all the houses through the windows, balconies and chimneys during the night.