The Spanish Christmas is called Navidad. It is much more of a religious festival in Spain, and not nearly as commercialized as elsewhere.
Just as in other countries, the streets in the towns, are decorated with lights and nativity scenes. These scenes are known as the Belén.
On December 22nd, ‘El Gordo’ (the Fat One), the Spanish lottery is drawn and this is a huge event in itself. The prize fund runs into billions of euros. The tickets cost 200 euros each, but, it is possible to buy a share of a ticket for 20 euros.
The Virgin Mary is the Patron Saint of Spain, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Spain.
Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena (Good Night), and this is a really important time for family gatherings and celebrations. The main Christmas meal is enjoyed on this evening and turrón, a sweet made from almonds (into a sort of nougat) is traditionally enjoyed on this occasion. Cakes called los polvorones, and marzipan figurines (Las figuras de mazapán) are also popular on this occasion.
Unlike other countries, presents aren’t exchanged much on Christmas day itself. This is reserved for the feast of the Epiphany on January the 6th, which is known as ‘Eve of The Kings’, or ‘Three Kings Day’. Although, in some households nowadays, Papá Noel has been known to put in an appearance on Christmas Day.
December 28th is Holy Innocents Day (Santos Innocentes). This day is celebrated in a similar fashion to our April Fool’s Day, with pranks being pulled on the unwary all day long.
On New Years Eve (Noche Vieja), there is a tradition known as the ‘lucky grapes’, (las uvas de la suerte). Each participant is given twelve grapes. At midnight the idea is to eat one grape at each stoke of the chimes or bells, and to make a wish. This is not always as easy as it sounds!
On Three Kings Day, Christmas presents (Regalos Típicos), are shared amongst family and friends. Los Reyes Magos, the three kings, rather than Santa Claus, distribute gifts to all the children of each town and village. Children leave shoes stuffed with goodies, straw, carrots etc., for the the horses of the three kings, and, in the morning, they awake to find this replaced with gifts.
On the 7th of January, the celebrations are over, and Spain returns to its normal daily ritual.
Watch the Spanish Christmas Video
Feliz Navidad – José Feliciano