Christmas in Spain
Navidades (the Christmas festive period) in Spain generally last from 22nd December to 7th January and we have marked out a handy guide for the most important festive dates in the Spanish calendar.
22nd December: ‘El Gordo’ Spanish Christmas Lottery
This national lottery draw takes place each year on 22nd December and has been held every year since 1812. Tickets are sold for months before the draw in kiosks and shops throughout Spain with Spaniards queueing in the hopes of buying winning tickets. It boasts the largest jackpot of lotteries worldwide (over 2.1 billion Euros in 2016) and the largest one single entrant can win is 4 million Euros. Due to the unique nature of ticket printing and distribution, winners of the largest prizes often live in the same towns and municipalities. The winning numbers are sung out by pupils of San Idelfonso School in Madrid but were previously sung by orphans of civil servants.
24th December: Nochebuena – Christmas Eve
Like many other European countries, 24th December is the more important date of Christmas period with families and extended relatives coming together to feast and enjoy each other’s company until the early hours. Children typically have not received Christmas presents until 6th January (Reyes), however with the influence of American films; more and more families are exchanging gifts on 25th December giving their children longer to play with their toys from Papa Noël before returning to school.
28th December: Santos Inocentes – Spain’s April Fools Days
Instead of pranking each other on 1st April, the Spanish save this tradition for 28th December to prolong the joy and levity of the festive period.
31st December: Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) Lucky Grapes
New Year’s Eve is a huge celebration worldwide and with their penchant for fiestas, Spaniards know how to throw a fantastic New Year’s Eve party! On 31st December in many towns and cities, people congregate in the squares, dressed in lively costumes to celebrate Nochevieja (old night) and bring in the New Year. One of Spain’s most unique traditions takes place at midnight when revellers eat a grape on each chime of the clock. If you can finish all 12 grapes in time, you are set have a lucky new year.
6th January: Día de los Reyes – Three Kings (Epiphany)
Typically gifts are not exchanged until the 6th January in Spain to mark Epiphany, when the three Magi visited Jesus with their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Instead of sitting on Father Christmas’ lap, children in Spain go and visit the Three Kings to receive their presents. The town of Alcoy in Alicante is particularly well known for its Three Kings parade culminating in a large fireworks display.
Turrón – This (typically) almond-based nougat is probably the most famous festive treat and comes in two varieties duro (hard) and blanco (soft).
Marzipan figurines – Marzipan is shaped into various Christmas figures.
Polvorones – These soft crumbly cakes are a staple in any Christmas feast and are delicious dipped in coffee or hot chocolate.
Roscón de Reyes – Eaten on 6th January, this colourful cake with its bright jellies is designed to resemble a crown with a trinket hidden inside the cake for one lucky person to find.