Christmas in Spain
I LOVE Christmas. I always have and I don't think that the excitement has wained since I was a child. A few things have changed since then but I still love the essence of the excitement, the decorating, the socialising and yes, the drinking and eating to excess. But what's Spanish Christmas going to be like? I have never spent Christmas outside the UK, neither has Ian, so we are intrigued to see how it works over here.
Firstly, Christmas preparations such as decorating the streets and shop promotions, adverts and lights do not appear before December 1st. This is a huge plus - In the UK, decorations and promotions start at the end of September so by the time it's actually Christmas you've just had enough! Here it's just one month-ish. Perfect.
Christmas is actually not so much of a big deal here which is a bit of a shame but understandable when you look at all the other HUGE festivals throughout the year. The key dates during December are:
- 6th December - el Día de la Constitución, celebrating the 1978 formation of the country's modern constituion. This year, the country also had un dia del puente, or another day's holiday as the 7th December fell between two public holidays....just another reason for an extended break!
8th December - el dia de la Inmaculada Concepción celebrating the Immaculate Conception. Not being a religious person I find this...um...quite interesting. However it's a Public holiday throughout Spain.
- 22nd December - The National Lottery "El Gordo" No, I am not joking. This is a BIG occasion - 75% of the population of Spain take part. To be honest we are still trying to work out how the lottery works exactly but it is different to the UK Lottery. It's sort of syndicate based. You can buy a slice of a ticket which means that many more people can win smaller prizes which makes far more sense that one big winner. We have a ticket and will be watching the draw on TV this morning...will let you know how that goes!
- December 24th Nochebuena (good night) is a real family occasion. A big meal at home with the family. You can't go out for a drink as almost every bar will be closed.
- December 25th - The key difference on Christmas day is that there are NO presents. Its a holiday but generally just a day to relax and go for a drink...I think.
- 31st December - Nochevieja, or Old Night, and it will be interesting to see how this one pans out. Again, this seems to be a night for a big family meal and not the massive firework spectacular. However, people will take to the streets with 12 grapes that they have to consume between each toll of the bell at midnight. It is recommended that these are pre-peeled to prevent choking!
The big day is...
- January 6th Día de los Reyes Magos - this is the day when the Three Kings will ride into the village on horses (or cars!) with presents for all the children in the village.
The other interesting difference is the Spanish Christmas decoration. There are Christmas trees but they are almost all artificial and, when outside, they are usually made up of cone shaped steel frames covered in lights. This year, Granada boasts the tallest Christmas tree in Europe, outside the new Nevada Shopping mall.
The most important Christmas decoration that every Spanish family will have in their home is the Belén. Belén means Bethlehem in Spanish and is essentially a miniature nativity scene. This can be accessorised endlessly and the more we saw the more we wanted one. Um. So we got one! Its really too much fun. There are stalls set up in every town selling Belén accessories and it seems like big business. Bethlehem was a busy place it seems. You can buy streams, animals, bread ovens, castles and every sort of character past or present that can be squeezed into this frankly hilarious nativity scene. We've added lights and can't agree on where the donkey should go...
Three days to go and we will report on how it all pans out. We will also have a special treat for you on Christmas day. Live (ish) from our sitting room!