What child wouldn’t love the fact that in Spain you get to celebrate, not once, nor twice, but three times, during the festive period?
Stop by a Christmas Market
Every city and town throughout the country has some kind of Christmas Market where stalls sell ornate figurines for the nativity, Christmas trees, decorations, flowers, hand-crafted gifts, sweets and other typical local products are sold.
Visit your local Belén
Photo: Ayuntamiento Madrid
As Spain is a Roman Catholic country, the nativity is a very important part of the celebration of Christmas. We always make time to visit them wherever we are and they can sometimes turn out to be far removed from the traditional representation – I’ll never forget taking the family to see a Barbie and Ken nativity scene: Barbie was belly dancing for Ken who was sitting in an armchair drinking beer. It wasn’t quite the earnest religious moment we were expecting!
Book a Christmas show
Whether it’s a pantomime, circus or musical theatre, Christmas is a great time to get the family together for a trip to show. English speaking amateur dramatics groups across Spain stage pantos and many places see shows such as Cirque du Soleil roll into town
Eat turrón, mantecads and polvorones
Photo: Fiona Govan
In Spain it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the candy known as turrón. Turrón is a nougat made out of almonds, honey and sugar, and comes in both hard and soft varieties. Other Spanish Christmas treats include marzipan, mantecados, and polvorones, which are traditional Spanish Christmas biscuits.
Learn some Spanish “villancicos”
Photo: Ayuntamiento de Valdemoro/Flickr
Spain has its own Christmas carols to be sung around the tree on Christmas Eve. Here is a guide to some of my favourites.
Ring the bells
Another fun Christmas Eve musical tradition involves the ringing of bells – at midnight all of the church bells sound, calling everyone to a church service called “La Misa Del Gallo,” or the rooster’s mass. It is fun to give each child a small handbell to ring in Christmas Day, the Spanish way.
Prepare a Christmas Eve Box
Photo: Jenn Durfey / Flickr
This can be prepared as a gift to kickstart the Christmas festivities. Our boxes contained a pair of pyjamas, some socks, chocolates, a Christmas mug with a selection of hot chocolate drinks and a book. It can help soothe the excitement of a visit from Santa and persuade little ones to snuggle up in bed.
Don’t forget about Santa
Photo: Fiona Govan
In Spain, Santa may not be the big Christmas star that he is in countries such as the UK and America, having to compete as he does with the Three Kings as bearer of gifts. But is popularity is growing and he may even be appearing at a grotto within a shopping centre near you.
As we all know, he travels across the whole world on Christmas eve, so although you may not have a mince pie handy here in Spain, apparently Santa is rather partial to turrón, so don’t forget to leave him a piece alongside the carrot for Rudolph.
Write to Los Reyes Magos
In Spain, the festive season lingers into the New Year when on the evening of January 5th, children get a visit from the Three Kings (Wise Men). In fact, it is to them and not Santa that Spanish children write a letter with their Christmas wish list and assurances that they have spent the year being good. Letters should be delivered before January 5th to one of the royal pages at shopping centres and city squares around Spain.
Catch Sweets at La Cabalgata
Children collecting sweets during the Three Kings parade in Madrid. Photo: Zona Retiro/Flickr
Spain’s villages, towns and cities receive the traditional, joyful visit of the Three Wise Men of the East: Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar in a parade on the evening of January 5th. It is an exciting experience for children of all ages. The parade represents the journey made by the Three Kings on their camels, following the star to the Bethlehem stable where Jesus was born. Streets are packed by floats carrying the kings and a whole host of weird and wonderful characters who throw sweets into the crowd. The children will love it.