Christmas is known as 'Navidad' in Spain and is celebrated passionately every year, although it is more of a hushed affair. The celebrations begin on December 8th with the 'Feast of Immaculada'. On the 22nd of December, a Christmas lottery is drawn and everyone in Spain purchases tickets to win the 'El Gordo'. Christmas Eve or 'Noche Buena' is a special day when Spanish folks attend the 'Mass of Rooster' at church and then return to spend quality time with their families and friends at home. On this day, people prepare a grand feast, which is consumed after midnight and then, they sing Christmas carols. On Christmas Day, the people in Spain spend their day at Church and traditionally, the children perform the 'swinging' ritual. The 'Feast of Epiphany' is held on January 6th and on this day; children in Spain receive gifts from the 'Three Wise Kings'. Scroll further to learn more interesting information about Christmas in Spain.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
Christmas or 'Navidad' is a festival that is religiously celebrated in Spain. Christmas Day is not a flamboyant affair like in the other countries and is usually a soft event. The holiday season starts on December 8th, which inaugurates and celebrates the feast of the 'Immaculate Conception'. Unlike most countries, Christmas celebrations in Spain only begin during the second half of the month of December. During this period, the streets and towns are decorated with Christmas adornments. Among the other Christmas festivities, the 'Jota' is a special Christmas dance performed on the streets and in town halls. Candlelight services are held at the monastery of 'Montserrat'. The Montserrat is known for its beautiful display of candles and colors during the festival. The beauty of this sight is further emphasized with traditional, folkloric Mass at Church.
The Tradition Of 'El Gordo'
On 22nd December, a Christmas lottery is held as a part of the celebrations. People in Spain buy tickets in the hope to win the 'El Gordo'- the big lottery, along with obtaining small prizes. Apart from being a festive part of Christmas traditions, the 'El Gordo' is also a matter of pride and prestige for the people of Spain.
Spanish Nativity Scene
During Christmas, people assemble a model manger with carved figures of the Holy family, the angels, the Three Kings, shepherds and animals to form the Nativity scene or 'Nacimento'. Spanish families gather around the manger to sing, while the children dance and play the tambourines. The people in Spain respect and honor the cow as they believe that Baby Jesus was warmed by the cow's breath. Hence, the cow is also revered, while setting up the Nativity Scenes during Christmas.
When the stars appear on Christmas Eve, the people in Spain start lighting oil lamps as a part of ancient customs. In Spain, Christmas Eve is known as 'Noche Buena', which means 'the Good Night'. On Noche Buena, the church bells ring and families are summoned to the church for 'Misa De Gallo' or 'Mass of the Rooster'. After attending mass, families get together and indulge in a wonderful feast at home. Gifts are exchanged at this point of time.
'Turron' is an important Spanish Christmas treat. A Spanish champagne known as 'Cava' is a favored drink and is popularly used for Christmas toasts. The Christmas feast is not consumed until midnight, as the Spanish believe that consuming it earlier, may bring bad luck. After dinner, the family members gather around the Christmas tree to sing Christmas carols, recite Christmas stories and hymns.
Spanish folks spend Christmas Day at church. One peculiar custom includes the custom of 'swinging' the children. Swings are built around the church courtyards and the youngsters swing, sing and laugh with joy on Christmas. It is symbolic of cheerful times to come in the following year.
According to Spanish legends, the 'Three Wise Kings' or the 'Magi', gift presents to the Spanish children on the 'Feast of Epiphany', which is on January 6th. Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar are the three legendary Kings who followed an evening star, to guide them to Baby Jesus. Little children are asked to write letters to the Three Kings for gifts. Children fill shoes with barley, carrots and straw and place them on balconies, doorsteps or on windowsills on the 'Eve of Epiphany' to feed the camels who carried the Three Wise Kings. Next day, the barley is replaced by treats and small toys. Today, one can witness the Three Wise Kings visiting and gifting children in orphanages and hospitals during Christmas.
On the morning of the 'Epiphany', a special Christmas cake called 'Roscon' is shared among the family. This cake is shaped in the form of a roll (Yule Log) and flavoured with cream. Dishes made from the freshest seafood are the main food for Christmas feasts.
Christmas Day in Spain is celebrated in a simple manner unlike other nations. The children receive their gifts from the 'Magi' on the 'Feast of Epiphany', which is celebrated on the 6th of January. Some of the activities during Christmas include dancing, lighting candles, musical events and the preparation of a grand feast.
Christmas in Spain is a quiet celebration when compared to the other nations. Spain has different Christmas customs and traditions. Read on to know more about the Christmas celebrations in Spain.