2 Christmastime in Spain is celebrated in three parts! Nochebuena – Christmas Eve – el 24 de diciembreFin de Año – New Year’s Eve el 31 de diciembreLos Reyes – Three Kings Day (Epiphany) – el 5 y el 6 de enero
3 Nochebuena Spaniards celebrate Christmas itself on Christmas Eve. It is called ‘Nochebuena’, or‘noche buena’ which meansthe ‘good night’.
4 NochebuenaNochebuena is a time for enjoying the company of family and friends.It is not the main time for giving Christmas presents – that happens later!The Christmas Eve dinner is served late in the evening and lasts several hours.Many families go to Midnight Mass in church.
5 Christmas Food – Comidas Navideñas There is a big choice of traditional Christmas dinner dishes in Spain.However, usually the meal will start with a light seafood dish, as well as a soup.
6 Christmas Food – Comidas Navideñas The main course might centre on roast meat, fish or seafood.And for pudding, there is usually a selection of delicious traditional sweets such as turrón, polvorones and mazapanes.
8 Fin de Año or Noche Vieja - 31 December Fin de Año means ‘End of Year’, and Noche Vieja means ‘Old Year’.It is celebrated in much the same way as in our country.Parties and meeting up with friends in cafés and bars are popular, and so are firework displays!
9 Fin de Año or Noche Vieja It’s traditional on New Year’s Eve to wear red underwear that has been given to you!Instead of listening to the bells of Big Ben and singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, Spaniards eat one grape on each ‘dong’ of the midnight bells.Often the bells ring a bit faster than Big Ben’s and it’s quite tricky to eat all 12 grapes without having a mishap!
10 Los Reyes – 5 & 6 JanuaryThis part of Christmastime is the most fun for children.Los Reyes means ‘The Kings’ – the Three Kings or Wise Men who came to see Baby Jesus.On 5th January, every village and town has a beautiful Three Kings Procession, where sweets and streamers are thrown into the crowds.At bedtime, children leave their shoes out, filled with a gift of straw for The Three Kings’ tired camels.
14 Los Reyes – 5 & 6 JanuaryIn the morning of the 6th of January, children in Spain awake to find that the Three Kings have left gifts in (and around!) their shoes!The 6th of January is a national holiday in Spain. Everyone can relax and enjoy time with family and friends.The traditional cake for Reyes is a ring-shaped cake called a ‘Roscón de Reyes’, which contains a small surprise gift for one lucky person.
15 Other Important Christmastime Events 21 de diciembre – Hogueras – bonfire celebrations21 de diciembre – El Gordo – said to be the largest national lottery draw in the world – often for billions of euros – most of the country takes part28 de diciembre – Día de los Inocentes – a day of pranks, equivalent to our April Fool’s Day
16 A Child’s Christmas in Spain A big difference between a British and a Spanish Christmas is that Father Christmas – Papá Noel – is not such an important figure. Children’s Christmas presents are brought by the Three Kings on 5 January.Elaborate models of the Nativity scene – los Belenes – are set up in most homes, and families get together to make theirs beautiful and detailed.
17 El Belén – the Nativity Scene These are a very important part of a Spanish Christmas.Nearly every home will have a Belén, and sometimes they take up an entire room!Town halls, churches and public buildings often have large Belenes, as well, with elaborate lighting and sound effects.
20 Christmas Vocabulary Las Navidades - Christmas / Christmastime Nochebuena - Christmas EveNoche Vieja / Fin de Año - New Year’s EveDía de Reyes - Three Kings’ DayTurrón, polvorones & mazapanes – sweet Christmas goodies!Roscón de Reyes – special cake for the Three Kings celebrationsBelén – Bethlehem and Nativity SceneHappy Christmas! - ¡Feliz Navidad!Happy New Year! - ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
21 Christmas Customs in Other Parts of the Spanish-Speaking World In Chile it is el Viejo Pascuero (Old Man Christmas) who brings the children’s gifts. He strongly resembles Santa Claus, and also arrives by reindeer!In Colombia, Christmastime starts on the 7th of December, when families light 100 candles on the pavements outside their homes, in honour of Mary, the mother of Baby Jesus.Because Costa Rica is in the tropics, Nativity Scenes are decorated with beautiful tropical flowers and berries.For 9 days before Christmas, processions depicting Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter pass through the streets of Guatemala, heralding Christmas with drumbeats and fireworks.