Twelve Days of Christmas [and yes we know its Christmas Eve, but we like to get things off to a fun start.
Merry Christmas all our members .. from now until 6th January we are running the Twelve Days of Christmas Feature, with masses of fun, articles, makes and much much more. Enjoy this story from Sue about how Spain celebrates their Christmas.
Felices Navidad, is Spanish for Merry Christmas. Here in Spain they have different traditions than
ours in the UK. The main one is that Spanish families all get together on Christmas Eve for their main
celebration meal. Their main preference is for seafood, especially Prawns, and if you are not quick
all the shops sell out in the days before the big event!
Christmas Day is usually a quiet family day, although nowadays, in our village, they do seem to like
to go to a local Restaurant, where they take several hours to eat, drink and be merry! In the past, no
presents were given out on Christmas Day – they were saved for Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings), 6th
January, when children placed their shoes outside on the doorstep in the hope that ‘Papa Noel’ fills
them with presents. However, this tradition is fast being overtaken by the giving and receiving of gifts on
Christmas Day – perhaps borrowing the ways of the many foreigners who live in Spain.
Our grandchildren grew up here in Spain and celebrated Christmas Day as we do in the UK, but they
did like to have presents on the 6th January too. When they moved back to the UK to live, they were
most disappointed when this was no longer the case – haha!!
There is no such thing as Boxing Day here, I think it is a particularly British phenomena, celebrated in
the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
They still give and receive their ‘Main’ presents on the 6th January. Here in Castillejar, the evening
before, the Three Kings can be found riding through the village on a cart, once drawn by oxen but
now by a tractor, lol! distributing sweets. The villagers then gather at the Town Theatre where the
‘Kings’ give the children small gifts (previously bought, wrapped and addressed by their parents).
The evening is full of tapas, local wine, laughter and good will, and everyone goes home happy.
Whilst researching for this article, I came across some very odd Spanish Traditions one such being
the Caganes or Crapping Log, which can be found in Northern Spain’s Nativity Scenes. This is a
wooden log decorated to look like a person, which stands behind Mary and Joseph and ‘poos’ – this
is to symbolise fertility and to bring good luck to all. Nowadays, the log sometimes takes the form of
a famous person, sportsperson, or politician….. Donald Trump appears to be very popular!!!
In nearby Algeciras, local children tie empty drinks cans together and drag them through the streets,
on the evening of the 5th January, to scare off a legendary giant who tries to cover the sky in a thick
smoke to deter the Three Kings from delivering their gifts.
Amongst some of the more ‘sensible’ transitions are the Roscon de Reyes which is a highly
decorated ring of sweet bread, depicting a Crown. Eaten on the 6th January, it contains a small
plastic toy which is said to be good luck for the finder, and a coffee bean – the finder of which is
supposed to provide the Roscon the following year.
One of the most appreciated traditions is the Spanish Christmas Lottery, El Gordo or Fat One. The
tickets cost a whopping 200euros each, but you can buy a tenth of one ticket for 20euro – which is
what most people do. In many villages, the local Town Hall, or major Bar or Restaurant buys the
200euro ticket and sell the ‘tenths’ off. This is why a whole village can be a winner of El Gordo,
meaning the main prize of a ‘mere’ 4 million euros is divided between the buyers of the tickets.
The Lottery appears on TV and national and local Radio on the 22nd December. Several massive
tombola machines, containing small balls with numbers on, are set in motion and as the balls drop
they are called out by orphans brought up by Madrid’s Ildefonso School, whose students have been
singing out the winning Christmas Lottery numbers since 1771.
Another tradition is the giving and wearing of Red Underwear at Christmas, a Good Luck sign, and
the shops are full of the colourful bras, pants and knickers!
The last tradition I would like to tell you about is the Doce Uvas , the 12 Grapes. This takes place on
New Years’ Eve when, as the clock strikes midnight, on each ‘dong’ a grape is eaten until all twelve
grapes are scoffed. This is not very easy, I can assure you, and you can end up with a mouthful of
half chewed grapes as the final ‘dong’ is heard. The tradition appears to have begun at the start of
the 20th century when Wine Growers in Alicante (Eastern Spain), had such an abundant crop that
they had to think of a way to sell more of their grapes. The custom has spread to many of the Latin
Amercan countries as a way of bringing prosperity for the year to come.
I hope you find this Blog amusing, and informative, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas or