I really like Christmas. I love to see the decorations, hear the music, buy the presents and all that comes with it! My first year in Spain I was really curious about what Christmas would be like. In 2002 I was really disappointed with my non-existent Christmas in Morocco (shoulda figured, what with Christ not a major religious figure there and all). It was even worse than the years we didn’t go to Cape Breton for Christmas to visit my grandparents as a kid!
Back to Christian Spain. My first year here I learned a lot! For the whole holiday season there are traditions which are quite fun, allow me to share some.
Each city beautifully decorates the streets with Christmas themed lights! It is quite common to see Christmas trees and pointsettas here, but no home is complete without a Nativity Scene or Belen (in Spanish). There are markets set up in the streets of major cities just to buy figurines for your set. It is serious business here- with palm trees, working water wells, all the major players (baby Jesus, the kings, Mary and Joseph, shepherds and their flocks). Churches and cities put up big belens. Another figurine that is included in the nativity scene in Spain is the Caganer. Conil has a Belen which I will try and get pictures of soon!
The Hanging Santa
These are scene hanging on buildings all over. I don’t get it – even Spaniards know that Santa comes down a chimney!
This is the night when the biggest feast is served (and there are quite a few nights with big feasts)! There is probably a traditional mass as well, but I have never been to one.
As it turns out, for New Year’s Eve couples buy each other red underwear to wear! The next morning when they wake up together thy burn the red underwear for good luck! Red underwear is on sale everywere! Now I know why …
The last twelve seconds of the year Spaniards eat twelve grapes in order to bring luck for the next twelve months! Imagine trying to stuff, chew, eat and swollow a grape in only a second!In all honesty I believe they slow down the clock on tv in order to keep the peace! You can even buy 12 grapes in a can in a grocery store just packaged just for New Years! After everyone conquers the grapes the champange starts flowing freely and then, naturally, everyone dances.
Traditionally gifts are opened on the 6th of January because they are brought by the three kings (not Santa Claus). Kids these days get gifts on both the 25th of December and the 6th of January. There is even a parade to celebrate the Kings coming to town on the fifth!