La Navidad en España (Topic: Christmas)
Christmas in Spain
At the end of November Spanish streets are filled with Christmas lights. Christmas carols are played in shopping centres, restaurants offer turrón (nougat) for dessert and children write their Christmas lists for Father Christmas and the Three Wise Kings.
The traditional Christmas market is set up in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. There you can buy figurines for the nativity scene: the baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Joseph, an ox and a donkey, an angel, the three wise men with their three camels and the star of Bethlehem. The tradition of the nativity scene is so well-established that you can recreate it using all kinds of characters, such as a shepherdess with a lamb or a baker with his loaf of bread. Besides the nativity scene, it’s customary to put up a Christmas tree and decorate it with baubles and tinsel.
Christmas begins in the evening of 24th December with the midnight mass. The churches celebrate the birth of Christ. In Spanish Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena and the whole family gets together to eat and wish each other “Happy Christmas!”. On the morning of the 25th, little ones wake up early and run to open their presents from Father Christmas. In the afternoon families get together again for Christmas dinner.
The 31st December is called Nochevieja. Families gather around the table and eat dinner until midnight. At midnight on the dot, television channels broadcast the twelve chimes of the bell live from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid. With each chime, you have to eat a grape to welcome the new year and bring good luck for the next twelve months. Everyone toasts with cava and wishes each other “Happy New Year!”
Christmas continues after New Year’s Eve, and on 5th January the parades of the Three Wise Kings flood the streets. They wear costumes on floats and throw out sweets to the crowd. Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, the Three Wise Kings, leave gifts at people’s houses during the night. The 6th January is the Day of Three Kings. In the morning, families open their presents together and have roscón de reyes (three kings cake) with hot chocolate for breakfast.