Across the globe, the sleigh bells are ringing and people are gearing up for the festive season. It is a time to gather family and friends together, eat, drink and be merry. And in Spain, the season is full of tradition and history, with the Spanish culture embracing the holidays with typical gusto. Celebrations are slightly different to the traditional UK events, with much focus on religion and family.
Christmas Eve or the Nochebuena as it is known in Spain is actually more of a traditional time to gather than Christmas Day itself. The phrase Nochebuena translates literally as The Good Night and a typical Spanish phrase is Esta oche es Noche-Buena, Y no Es noche de dormer which means ‘Tonight is the good night and it is not meant for sleeping!‘ Many families will attend the Midnight Mass, known as the ‘La Misa Del Gallo’ (The Mass of the Rooster). It is so called because a rooster is supposed to have crowed the night that Jesus was born. Before mass, families gather together to enjoy their traditional Christmas dinner, which is often, as in the UK, a roast turkey with all the trimmings. Children are given their Christmas presents to open on Christmas Eve, although these are often just token gifts, with main presents being saved for the Kings Day celebrations in January.
December 28th is ‘Día de los Santos Inocentes’ or ‘Day of the Innocent Saints’. This holiday was originally meant to commemorate the young people who were killed by the King Herod in order, he thought, to protect himself against the new born Son of God. On a lighter note, in more recent years it has become also similar to Aprils Fools Day, and Spanish people play practical jokes and tricks on each other traditionally on this day.
New Years Eve, or Nochevieja, meaning The Old Night is a great cause for celebration across Spain. Many people gather together in town square to hear the clock strike midnight, heralding the arrival of the New Year and giving thanks for the events of the past. Tradition decrees that you should eat 12 grapes on each stroke of midnight, this is meant to ensure a healthy and wealthy life for the coming year, with each grape representing the coming twelve months.
Perhaps the biggest of all the festive celebrations in Spain is the coming of the Three Kings. According to religious legend, the Kings travelled to greet the baby Jesus, bearing gifts for the new born child. Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar were their names, and they are an important part of Spanish culture. In each town, children and their parent line the streets on the night of the 5th January to welcome the kings, who often arrive on brightly lit decorated floats, throwing sweets to the children as they pass. Gifts from parents are given to the Kings in advance, and at the end of the procession, the children gather in the town square and are called up to receive their gifts from the Kings.
So, if you are lucky enough to be spending your Christmas holidays in Ibiza, or any other part of Spain, then join in the fun and embrace the local culture, the Spanish really do know how to throw a party at any time, and Christmas is certainly no exception!