Spain is one of the world’s oldest cultures with a rich heritage that has influenced entire continents. It is the birthplace of the Spanish language, Miguel Cervantes and Salvador Dalí, and attracts millions of people every year, many of whom end up falling in love with its charm, making it their place of residence.
Spain has tons to offer, from tortilla de patatas and olives, to flamenco dance and Spanish guitar. On that note, let’s look at some known (and some not so known) interesting facts about Spain.
#1 The Puerta del Sol (“Gate of the Sun”) plaza in Madrid is the physical center of the country.
In it, the so-called Kilometre Zero of the country’s radial network has been located since 1950. The square also contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year. The New Year’s celebration has been broadcast live on national television since 31 December 1962.
#2 Spain has been through a bunch of different names throughout its history.
The North African inhabitants who first crossed the Straits of Gibraltar called it Iberia, which meant land of rivers (‘Iber’ meant river). When the Greeks discovered the peninsula, they called it Hesperia, meaning “land of the setting sun” (since it was then the westernmost point of the European continent).
When the Carthaginians came to the land around 300 BCE, they called it Ispania, which meant “land of the rabbits”. Later, the Romans took over and Latinized the name to Hispania. Over time, this changed to España. So essentially, Spain is the “land of rabbits”!
#3 Ratoncito Pérez
There is no tooth fairy in Spain, instead, the Spanish have a legend called ‘Ratoncito Pérez’ who exchanges children’s teeth for money. Normally a coin is given, such as 1 euro for each tooth.
#4 New Year with Twelve lucky Grapes.
As per this custom, Spaniards celebrate the New Year by eating one grape with their family for each bell strike of the clock (for a total of 12 grapes – hence the name). This custom was originally popularized by Spanish vine growers as a way to sell their excess grapes! These grapes are associated with good luck, so you should eat them to have a good year.
#5 Spaniards have two surnames
Traditionally, you have two surnames in Spain – the first surname from your father, and the second from your mother.
For example, if your name is Pablo López Alegre, and your wife’s name is Lidia Sanchez García, your kids’ surname will be López Sanchez.
However, as per a new gender equality law, this tradition is now being changed to favour the mother’s last name, so you can change the order.