Spanish families love Christmas traditions, making it one of the most important and fun celebrations in the calendar. From festive markets to the renowned El Gordo lottery through to the Dia de los Reyes festivities, this is a time when family and friends come together to enjoy the traditions that have been enjoyed by many generations.
7 tips for a great Christmas wherever you are in Spain
2- The Christmas markets, or "mercadillo navideño," are festive open-air marketplaces, which typically take place from early December to January. These enchanting Christmas markets can be found in many city plazas all over Spain, and are lined with decorated stalls offering delicious seasonal treats, hand painted ornaments and traditional handmade crafts.
4-El Gordo, meaning "The Fat One," is Spain's famous Christmas Lottery. Broadcast live on national television for hours by children singing the lucky numbers on December 22nd, it's one of the world's largest and oldest lotteries. Weeks before the draw, people line up to eagerly purchase tickets, often sharing the cost and forming lottery syndicates with family and friends. The excitement builds as winning numbers are announced via singing children as everyone hopes to be part of the massive prize pool, worth over 2 billion euros!!
5-The tradition of eating 12 grapes on the 31st of December, known as "Las Doce Uvas de la Suerte" (The Twelve Grapes of Luck), is a popular and widespread custom in Spain. It is a New Year's Eve tradition where people eat one grape for each stroke of the clock at midnight. The goal is to consume all twelve grapes before the final stroke, symbolizing good luck for each month of the upcoming year.
6- Los Reyes On the eve of January 5th every year, Spanish towns and cities make way for the colorful parades of the Dia de los Reyes, or the Kings’ Day – a celebration of the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth. Floats carrying these figures – or real-life versions of the wise men – make their way down major streets of each city. As they pass, they throw out handfuls of sweets that rain down on the crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of this fun festival. The sweets are supposedly just for kids, for whom this annual holiday is very popular. Still, strangely, you’ll see plenty of grannies with upturned umbrellas trying to catch as many as possible.
After this celebration, children put their shoes under the Christmas tree so Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar can leave gifts for them. Since the three kings travel such a long distance and have a lot of work to do during the 5th and 6th of January, families traditionally leave water, turrón (a typical Christmas nougat), and milk out for the three kings and their camels to eat and drink. January 6th is the day Spanish families exchange gifts instead of receiving gifts from Santa on Christmas morning.
7- The delicious Roscón de Reyes, known as the Kings' cake, is also eaten on this day. It is sweet bread in the shape of a large donut. With a sweet cream inside and candied fruit adorning the top, giving off an appearance of a jeweled crown. Inside it hides two surprises, a bean and a figurine. Tradition says that whoever finds the figure will be crowned king, while whoever gets the bean will pay for the roscón.
In Spain, Christmas is a celebration for all to enjoy, no matter your background, it's a season meant for togetherness with family, friends and loved ones. So what are you waiting for, grab your coat and a scarf and go out to enjoy the festivities in your neighborhood!