Whilst Christmas may not (usually) mean snow in most of the tourist areas of Spain it doesn´t mean that a Spanish Christmas is any less festive. Of course, Spain is a massive country and there are certainly some snowy places to visit so it really is a country that has something for every taste at Christmas time.
But what about the traditions of Christmas and how do the Spaniards celebrate?
In Spain family is really important and where as in many countries families sometimes to grow apart, the tradition in Spain still remains that families are very close and so Christmas is a wonderful time to catch up and enjoy quality time together.
Most Spanish families have a big get together on Christmas Eve and when we say a big get together we are not exaggerating. It´s normal for these gatherings to attract big numbers because in some cases it´s the main family reunion of the year. Aunties, Uncles, Granny, Brothers, Sisters, Cousins and all of their partners around a huge table the night of the 24th enjoying a feast with free-flowing alcohol and fun and games. In many families, they will take it in turns each year who hosts the event and usually throughout the day you will find the hosts preparing the food with aunties and uncles popping in to help prepare the food.
Jamón is a traditional food all year round but in many Spanish families a special one (often a Jamón Iberico o ¨pata negra¨) will be bought for the 24th and you´ll be sure to find an Uncle who takes charge of the skilled task of cutting it wafer thin and dishing it out. Then of course at some point during the evening someone will produce a ¨bota de vino¨ - a jug type bottle filled with wine which you must try to pour into your mouth from above trying to catch it all whilst all the family are chanting your name and clapping – a feat of skill to not get it all down your clothes.
Often gifts will be exchanged, especially between those extended family members who may not be spending Christmas day together and when the groups are large it is often the case that families participate in a secret Santa (or amigo invisible) with the youngest of the children handing out the gifts to their assigned recipients.
After what is inevitably a late night people retire to their houses and the kids go to bed with the usual excitement and anticipation of what to expect from Santa – or Papa Noel as he is called in Spain).
The 25th tends to be just like in most countries, the kids will usually wake the household up very early to see what has been left under the tree. Often family members will come round for the gift opening and usually the children will be the ones who hand out the gifts. Later a feast will be prepared but there´s no Turkey on the menu in a Spanish household at Christmas. Other traditional Spanish meals are served with “Cocido” being a firm favourite at Christmas. This is slow cooked meat balls in a soup with fideos (noodles), beans and vegetables. Usually this is served after a feast of tapas (individual shared picking dishes).
Boxing Day which is celebrated in the UK is not really a day of celebrations in Spain with most things returning to normal but then New Years Eve is the next big get together. People celebrate new year either with family, friends of both and whilst many families get together it is not unusual for people to go out to party with their friends or the younger adults to have dinner at home with their family before going out to see the new year in with a bang.
Traditionally in Spain it is said that wearing red underwear on New Years Eve will bring luck and as the clock strikes midnight the Spaniards will see the new year in by eating 12 grapes, one with each chime of the clock which is usually watched live from Madrid on national TV.
The next part of the celebrations in Spain comes on the 6th January when families celebrate ¨los reyes¨(the kings). This is said to be the day that the three kings arrived bearing gifts for Jesus and so it is another day when families traditionally get together and some gifts will be exchanged.
Some Spanish families do the bulk of their gift sharing on the 6th January and perhaps just small gifts for the children on the 25th December, others make Christmas their main gift-giving day and then a small gift (or none at all) will be given, particularly to the children on the 6th January.
Roscon de los Reyes is traditionally eaten on the 6th January, a circular cake to represent the crown. These are often shop bought these days but the tradition of making them has not died out and up and down the country you will see mums and grannies making these typical cakes to share and decorating them with sweets whilst somewhere inside a gift will be hidden.
Clearly here we have talked about what Spanish families do at Christmas but Spain is a wonderful place to spend Christmas for everyone – locals and visitors alike and if you are thinking of spending this Christmas in Spain or getting away for an early new year break then why not consider Drivalia as your car hire supplier? With six offices throughout Spain we are arguably the leaders in all inclusive no deposit car hire in Spain. We have some of the newest cars in any fleet, wonderful friendly staff and strive to deliver the very best car hire in Spain experience that you could wish for. But, if you are thinking of booking a last minute few days away for this Christmas then don´t delay, we are already almost sold out in most locations!