Spending Christmas in your holiday home in Spain for the first time is exciting, but can also be daunting. What if it’s nothing like the Christmas that you’re used to in the UK? The good news is that there are lots of wonderful Spanish Christmas traditions that, if you wish, you can get involved in. This article explores some of these Christmas traditions.
The lead up to Christmas
The first thing that you may notice whilst spending Christmas in your holiday home in Spain is that Christmas isn’t such a huge commercial occasion as it is in many other western countries. Christmas lights are usually lit in the main cities in the first week of December, by which time the shops are fully stocked with Christmas supplies. Nothing like in the UK where by the end of summer Christmas decorations are already in the shops!
Similarly to the UK, in the lead up to Christmas, carol singing, known as ‘piden el aguinaldo’ is a popular tradition for Spanish children. So be prepared if you hear a knock at your door!
Nativity scenes, known as ‘Pesebres’, are also popular all throughout Spain in the lead up to Christmas. Many towns also hold ‘Pastorets’ which are big plays about the Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. These feature lots of live music and festivities to entertain the crowds. The ‘Pastorets’ are a fantastic way to get into the Christmas spirit, so if your town has one, make sure you experience it!
And of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas tree! Christmas trees are just as popular in Spain as they are back in the UK, so you can still get into the Christmas spirit by decorating your holiday home in Spain with lights, tinsel and the all-important Christmas tree.
One of the main things that you might notice when spending Christmas in your holiday home in Spain is that Christmas Eve is a bigger celebration than Christmas Day itself! In fact, it is considered the most important family gathering of the year.
During the early evening on Christmas Eve, known as ‘Nochebuena’, the majority of Spanish families will meet in the local town for drinks with friends, before eating their main Christmas meal. Similarly to in the UK, the most popular dish is roast turkey – ‘Pavo Trufado de Navidad’, which is stuffed with truffles. Popular desserts include ‘mazapán’ (made of almonds, sugar and eggs), ‘turrón’ (made of honey and toasted almonds) and ‘polvorones’ (made of flour, butter and sugar). Plenty of fine Spanish wine is also guaranteed to be consumed! So one thing you can be sure of is that there will be lots of delicious food around for you to sample whilst spending Christmas in your holiday home in Spain!
Also on Christmas Eve, many people go to a Midnight Mass or ‘La Misa Del Gallo’ (The Mass of the Rooster). It is called this because a rooster is supposed to have crowed the night that Jesus was born.
On Christmas Day itself, children are given a few small presents to open, however they receive the majority of their gifts on Epiphany. This is probably one of the biggest differences between Christmas in Spain, and Christmas in the UK. You can read more about this celebration further down in the article.
Despite not being as big a celebration as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day is still a national holiday in Spain so most shops are closed. It’s usually a relaxing day spent with family, where people go out for a walk, or maybe drop into a bar. It is also becoming more common to see families eating out on the afternoon of Christmas day.
Something you may not be expecting, is that December 28th is ‘Día de los santos inocentes’ or ‘Day of the Innocent Saints’, and is very much like April Fools Day in the UK. So be prepared as people try to trick each other into believing silly stories and jokes. The newspapers and TV stations even get involved! If you trick someone, you can call them ‘Inocente, inocente’ which means ‘Innocent, innocent’.
New Year’s Eve is called ‘Nochevieja’ or ‘The Old Night’ in Spain and one special tradition is that you eat 12 grapes with the 12 strokes of the clock at Midnight! Each grape represents a month of the coming year, so if you eat the twelve grapes, you are said to be lucky in the new year – so make sure you stock your holiday home in Spain with grapes!
If you’re staying in your holiday home in Spain throughout January as well, you’re in for a treat. The Spanish hold huge celebrations around Epiphany, a holiday to honour the Three Kings, which is on the 6th January. Many towns and cities have Epiphany Parades where each King has a big float that is shaped like a camel. Sometimes there are even real camels in the parade!
As mentioned above, children receive most of their presents on Epiphany. Instead of believing that it’s Santa Claus bringing them their gifts, Spanish children believe that it is the Three Kings that bring them. Just like children in the UK do with Santa Claus, Spanish boys and girls write letters to the Kings asking for toys and presents.
On Epiphany Eve (5th January), they leave shoes on windowsills or balconies or under the Christmas Tree to be filled with presents. Gifts are often left by the children for the Kings – traditionally a glass of Cognac for each King, a satsuma and some walnuts. Sometimes a bucket of water is left for the camels that bring the Kings. If the children have been bad, the Kings might even leave pieces of coal made out of sugar in the presents! If you’re still in your holiday home in Spain around this time, these Epiphany traditions could be great fun to introduce to any children in your household, as well as being a great cultural learning experience.
So overall, whilst spending Christmas in your holiday home in Spain you may be exposed to a number of different Christmas traditions, but you definitely won’t be feeling any less festive!
Finding your perfect holiday home in Spain
If you’re yet to find your dream holiday home in Spain, but these Christmas traditions sound appealing, fear not. Spanish Legal Homes have over 500 ‘key ready’ properties on our books, and our experienced and friendly team are here to help. We offer all inclusive property viewing trips for just £99 per person, where we’ll show you 8-10 properties a day that match your requirements. So what are you waiting for? Book your property viewing trip today, and you could easily be in your new holiday home in Spain, ready for next Christmas!