Christmas in Spain, as in the rest of the world, is one of the most expected holidays of the year. There are many aspects in common with the traditions of other countries, but there are other very specific that you can only live in Spain. Do you want to know them?
#1 Christmas lottery
Christmas in Spain begins with the much-awaited draw of lottery, “el Gordo” (the fat one) on the morning of 22 December.
Its history goes back to 1812, and it has the peculiarity that those in charge of “singing” the winning numbers are the children of the San Ildefonso school of Madrid with their unique intonation.
So every 22 December, illusion bursts into Spanish homes, who dream of being the lucky ones that win “el Gordo”, whose maximum prize has a value of 4 million euros.
Those who do not have luck with “el Gordo” of the Christmas Lottery have a second chance on 6 January with “El Niño” Lottery, which coincides with the Three Wise Men night.
#2 The Bethlehem
Maybe the decorative element that most characterizes Christmas in Spain is nativity scene portal, representation of the birth of Jesus Christ, custom coming from the catholic religion.
In every nativity scene the child Jesus can not be missing as a main part, together with the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph in a manger. Traditionally, this scene is accompanied by the mule and the ox.
If you want to expand, you can include representations of the Three Wise Men coming to Bethlehem or pastors gathered to worship the newborn.
The Christmas Eve dinner in Spain takes place every 24 December. This dinner, prior to Christmas day, is a family affair and is usually celebrated in the homes of the Spaniards with the whole family.
Although the dishes vary according to each family and each area of Spain, there is something that is always true: it is a very abundant dinner, in which there are appetizers such as salads, olives, cheeses, cold meet, etcetera; main dish which can be some roast meat or fish and, finally the dessert, with a variety of sweets, including turrón and marzipan.
#4 Día de los Santos Inocentes
28 December is the Día de los Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents Day), a day when practical jokes and spoof stories are everywhere in a way very similar to April Fools’ Day in the UK. The tradition has links, some think, to the biblical story of King Herod’s massacre of the babies (innocents) in a futile attempt to kill the infant Jesus. Others think it’s all a medieval fake, with the joke on Christians, but whatever the origins, practical joke victims in Spain are known as “innocents”, and as in the UK in April, television and the media join in. In these days of “fake news”, it might be increasingly difficult to tell, but for those who enjoy finding the fake story, 28 December is the day in Spain! Happy Día de los Santos Inocentes!
#5 Three Wise Men night
Finally, the celebrations are finished on 6 January, with the Three Wise Men night. This day is mainly dedicated to younger children, because on that day they receive the long-awaited gifts.
One day before the day of celebration you can see in the streets the popular Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (The Procession of the Three Wise Men), when children take the opportunity to greet them and give them their letter with the list of gifts they wish to receive.
Afterwards, the children go to sleep and the next day find under the Christmas tree the gifts that the three wise men (Melchior, Gaspar and Baltasar) have brought them.
The typical candy of this day is Roscón de Reyes, cake that carries dried fruits in the form of precious stones that adorned the mantles of the wise men.
So… Feliz Navidad!