Saturday, 8 December 2007

Christmas in Madrid, part 3 [Navidad en Madrid, sepárese tres]

I've been reading up on the traditions and customs of a Spanish Christmas, and it's a good job I did, because I might have missed some of it. Christmas in Spain is not the wimpy two-day affair that we are accustomed to - it goes on until January 6th!

Here's an outline:
22nd December: the drawing of 'El Gordo' - the Christmas Lottery with about €600 million to be shared out.

24th December: Nochebuena - the 'Good Night', Christmas Eve. Families enjoy a feast in the evening/night/early morning - seafood, suckling pig, lamb or turkey, turrón (nougat) and marzipan, all washed down with buckets of Cava (Spanish sparkling wine). Adults exchange gifts, kids may get a token gift.

25th December: Christmas Day. Everything is shut, and probably everybody is sleeping/recovering from the night before. And then another feast.

28th December: Day of the Innocents. Practical jokes abound, like All Fools' Day.

31st December: New Year's Eve. Traditionally, you have to eat one grape as each of the midnight bells rings. This is easier said than done: Spanish grapes have seeds, and eating twelve of the blighters in twelve seconds without choking is quite an achievement. You get one month of good luck for each grape successfully consumed. And then there's a bit of partying.

5th/6th January: Los Reyes - Three Kings. Spanish kids write letters to the Three Kings asking for Playstations etc. The Kings arrive in your town on the evening of the 5th: they will be parading through Madrid from Retiro Park to Plaza Mayor, probably on camels. The Kings distribute tonnes of sweets as they go. On the 6th, kids finally get their prezzies, and they get to eat part of a special ring-shaped cake called Roscón de los Reyes. If they're lucky they will find a plastic toy that has been baked into the cake, hopefully before they swallow it.

As if this wasn't enough, Madrid is doing some other stuff. There's a show near Opéra Metro on the 15th to mark the 'official' start of Christmas. In Plaza de Colón there's a sound and light show every night from the 22nd. There's a couple of outdoor ice-rinks. There are belénes (nativity scenes) all over town. And of course, the fabulous lights on the main shopping streets. Apparently Madrid spends more on Christmas lights than any other European capital, and Spain spends more than any other European country. And it's worth every centimo.


nzm said...


I guess the rest of January is spent recovering from the festivities.

I guess that the Spanish kids are used to getting their gifts on Jan 6th - most kids used to getting pressies earlier would be hard pressed to wait that long.

German kids get their gifts on the evening of Christmas Eve.

When J brought her 2 boys down to NZ for Christmas in 2003, we made them wait until Christmas Day morning - as is the tradition in our part of the world.

To put it mildly, their reaction to this news was unfavourable! But then they got to play with their new toys all day, so that was a bonus.

BuJ said...

Sounds like you're planning on having great fun! Mind you Dubai Christmasses are pretty extravagant.. but it's more commercial rather than religious.. so in Spain will be nicer.

I just got back from Barcelona.. waiting to cool off then write a badd-ass post about them.. damn Catalans.. do you have a proxy in Spain? lol

Keefieboy said...

NZM: I'm like an 8-year-old: there's so much going on, and it's my first Christmas outside the Middle East for about 14 years!
BUJ: Tell me about dem Cataloonies!

BuJ said...

hi Keefier.. u know that post is coming up soon! man they pissed me off these beggars of Barcelona.. but i'll get em back, Loonies!

Tom said...

Yeah, it's a long haul, the Spanish Christmas. Actually, not everything is closed on the 25th. We always go to the cinema or bowling or something in the afternoon, which I always think is rather nice. And as far as I'm aware, while no newspapers are published in England on December 25th, in Spain it's January 1st which goes 'sense premsa'.