Celebrating Christmas & New Year in Spain
If you ever spend Christmas in Spain one of the first things you will notice is that it isn't commercial as other western countries. There is a hardly a fairy light or Christmas tree to be seen until mid December, and the town and city centres showcase nativity scenes known as Belénes which depict the life in the village where baby Jesus was born. These Belénes always include the Three Kings, Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
You may have heard of El Gordo (the fat one), Spain's national lottery. Town's and villages purchase tickets hoping to win the very large prize and the Spanish are glued to their TV's all day watching the draw which is drawn over a period of many hours.
Christmas Eve known as Nochebuena (Goodnight) is regarded as the most important family gathering of the year. Families get together for a meal to celebrate the occasion with fine Spanish wines and Cava being consumed. After the meal children will possibly receive a small gift, or this is given on Christmas Day, however the 6th January is the main day for present giving. Christmas Day is usually a quiet day with families meeting for a walk and a long lunch.
Boxing Day as know it isn't celebrated in Spain but on the 28th December the day of Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents) the Spanish play practical jokes on each other just like our April Fool's Day
New Year's Eve is known as NocheVieja and as you would expect it's a massive celebration! In the city centres people gather to celebrate the New Year in, bars restaurants are full! On the stroke of midnight the Spanish eat 12 grapes one on each chime of the bell with Cava which brings good luck for the New Year. Having tried this, there is definitely an art to eating all 12 in time!
New Year's Day as you would expect is low key, however on the Costa's there are the expat's partaking in the traditional New Year's Day swim in the sea, most are raising money for charity and the cold sea certainly is a cure for a hangover.
On the 5th January processions take place throughout Spain, the Three Kings are paraded through town and there are floats with sweets being thrown for the children.
Children wake up on the 6th January to the Feast of the Epiphany (Día de los Reyes Magos) this is when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem with their gifts, excited children in Spain wake to presents as we do from Father Christmas on Christmas Day.