Many of the Christmas traditions in Spain revolve around the same type of activities as in the rest of the world. Christmas is a deeply unique and religious holiday in Spain, with beautiful traditions and customs that reflect the true character of the Spanish people, and just like anywhere else, families gather together to enjoy and celebrate.
The country’s patron saint is the Virgin Mary and the Christmas season officially begins December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is celebrated each year in front of the great Gothic cathedral in Sevilla with a ceremony called Los Seises or the “dance of six.” Oddly, the elaborate ritual dance is now performed by not six but ten elaborately costumed boys.
Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena. It is a time for family members to gather together to rejoice and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present in nearly every home. A traditional Christmas treat is turrón, a kind of almond candy.
It is celebrated with two very important Christmas traditions, eating an enormous meal, and going to Christmas mass. There is a wide variety of typical foods one might find on plates right across Spain on this night
On Christmas day people spend more time with their families. They eat another large meal, although not as big as the one the day before, and in many families, children enjoy the gifts that they have received from “Papa Noel”, the Spanish equivalent of Santa Claus. The custom of giving gifts on this date is not as popular as it is in many countries, as Spaniards traditionally wait until Three King’s Day to exchange gifts
December 28 is the feast of Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents). Young boys of a town or village light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders townspeople to perform civic chores such as sweeping the streets. Refusal to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration.
New Year’s Eve celebrations are an impressive spectacle, and in plazas of Spanish cities big and small, one can see a similar scenes. When the clock strikes 12, the church bells sound 12 times, and at this moment, all Spaniards eat 12 grapes, one for each toll of the bell.According to tradition, those who eat the grapes will have 12 months of prosperity in the new year.
As in many European countries, the children of Spain receive gifts on the feast of the Epiphany. Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Magi) are particularly revered in Spain. It is believed that they travel through the countryside re-enacting their journey to Bethlehem every year at this time.
January 6th is Three King’s Day, completes the Christmas traditions in Spain, and While most of the world has already begun packing up the Christmas ornaments, throwing out the tree, and finding a place for all of their gifts, Spaniards are continuing the celebration.
It is the long awaited day in which the three Kings bring their gifts. The day before, children go to a parade where they see the three kings arrive to their city, and take the opportunity to ask them for gifts. Before going to bed the children leave their shoes out in a visible spot in the house or on their balcony, and hope that when they wake up they will find gifts left by Mechior, Gaspar, and Balthasar.