The Christmas spirit is everywhere in the world! The streets are filled with Christmas lights, shops and restaurants are decorated, shop windows are filled with toys, presents are eagerly awaited and carols are playing on every street corner.
And we love it! And if you don’t have a Christmas mood, you only have to travel around Spain, and see how every year the most original traditions and festivities are celebrated. Did you know that this country has a lot of beautiful customs related to Christmas? And many of them have great meaning and magic!
That’s why today at Perfect Venue we bring you this post, so you can discover the most original Christmas traditions in Spain and the most original places where they are celebrated.
Don’t miss any of them!
Tio de Nadal, a wooden trunk for children
If we start our travel from Catalonia and go to the region of Aragon, we will find the Tío de Nadal, one of the most beloved characters by local people.
He is also known as Cagatió. He is made up of a wooden trunk with four legs, he wears a red cap and always smiles. Tío Nadal or Cagatió arrives during the long weekend in December and leaves on the 25th of December to make the arrival of Christmas more enjoyable!
During the days of waiting, the children cover him with a blanket at night and leave him food, and during this time he will “treat” the little ones of the house with little sweets and gifts.
So original tradition!
The “Apalpador” knocks on the doors of the Galician people
If Father Christmas arrives by sleigh from the North Pole, the “Apalpador” arrives from the mountains of Galicia. He is a coalman with a red beard, wears country clothes, a beret, carries a walking stick and a pipe, and visits children’s houses on the most important days of Christmas, the 24th and 31st December.
In the past, this unusual character left sweets and nuts as presents, although with the time the sweets and chestnuts have been replaced by toys and other gifts to make Christmas more enjoyable for the little ones.
The Olentzero wanders around Navarre and the Basque Country
Olentzero is very similar to the Galician Apalpador. Olentzero is a robust, very old charcoal-burner who lives in the forest throughout the year and, when Christmas comes, he wanders around Navarre and the Basque Country giving presents to children.
Not so long ago, this character was accompanied by a female figure called Mari Domingi. It was about time to see a female character at Christmas!
The Three Wise Men arrive by helicopter to Gijón with their page, Prince Aliatar
The Three Wise Men would not have enough time to deliver presents all over the world. That is why in Asturias they have a special page who helps them to do their work, he is Prince Aliatar.
This page boy is part of the Three Wise Men parade in Gijón and he collects all those last-minute letters that the most absent-minded children have forgotten to send on time. But, before this, the Three Wise Men visit Gijón by getting out of a helicopter in the middle of San Lorenzo beach. The children are amazed!
Animals walk around the city Alcoy
The arrival of the three kings is celebrated in Alcoy with great fanfare: the streets are filled with camels, shepherds, jockeys, donkeys, mules, torches, cribbing with the baby Jesus, Joseph, and Mary…
Everything that happened at Christmas in Bethlehem is happening again in the province of Alicante! This celebration goes back at least 130 years, it might even have been the first feast in Spain and one of the oldest in the world.
Definitely, you must visit Alcoy this Christmas, you will be taken aback by the decorations in the local streets and their unique procession!
Easter Ranchos in the Canary Islands
This tradition has been inherited from the Spanish mainland. In the past, there were musical groups that went through the streets collecting alms to celebrate masses in honour of the deceased, called Ranchos de Ánimas, which used to be played in November.
Nowadays this tradition has changed and has become a hallmark of the Canarian Christmas, where this Easter music fills the streets of the charming villages of the archipelago.
Children and parents dance and sing every song!
In Huelva and Castellón people have a Living Nativity Scene
The Living Nativity Scenes in Beas, in Huelva, as well as in Castellón is the most memorable activity.
There are more than 30 biblical scenes represented, as well as traditional daily scenes of the time and trades set in an impeccable scenography, these nativity scenes occupy around 1,500 square metres, and more than 10,000 people usually come to see them every year.
You can’t miss it!
In León they leave aside the Christmas tree and instead choose the Ramo Leonés (Leonese Bouquet)
The Christmas tree decorates the living rooms, halls, and dining rooms of countless houses at Christmas time, except in León, where they leave aside the typical tree with its lights and decorations and give way to the Ramo Leonés, a wooden bouquet with garlands, ornaments and any other Christmas objects.
At the top of the Ramo Leonés they also place 12 candles, symbolising the 12 months of the year.
The old woman from León’s mountains gives bread to children
This character is presented as an old woman from the mountains of León, who lives in one of the caves, where she kneads and bakes bread all the year to give it to the children of the surrounding villages of the province.
In the past, this legend was related to the summer months, when the parents, after their work in the fields, returned home and this old woman gave them the bread as a gift to their children.
Nowadays, this tradition has been revived and transferred to the Christmas season, when children look forward to meeting the old woman and tasting her delicious homemade bread.
The Song of the Sibyl sounds in Mallorca
The Song of the Sibyl was declared as an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2004 and an Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010. The Song of the Sibyl in Mallorca has survived on the island since medieval times.
During the Midnight Mass on the 24th of December, a woman or child who forms part of the church choir dresses up in medieval clothing and, accompanied by two altar boys. Together they perform the traditional musical and poetic song of the Middle Ages.
This custom is currently being revived in areas of Barcelona, Valencia, and Tarragona, cities where the Canto de la Sibila was also traditionally performed many years ago.
A Madrid tradition: 12 grapes and square Puerta del Sol
One of the most crowded places on New Year’s Eve is the Puerta del Sol in the capital. Here you can see how the hands of the clock and the chimes of the bells usher in the new year.
This tradition began because of a surplus of grapes in Alicante in the 19th century, which spread throughout the country. According to legend it is good luck to eat 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds of the year.
Here people of Madrid celebrate the New Year with the chimes and bells ringing.
The National Christmas Lottery
All Spanish and foreigners adore this Christmas lottery known as the Sorteo de la Lotería Nacional (National Lottery). The raffle is held every year on 22 December. You could say that Christmas in Spain officially starts on this day.
This time of year, everyone has their own magic ritual to make sure their ticket number matches the winning number, some hand their ticket over the belly of a pregnant woman, others look for a bald man to rub their ticket on his head, while others put their ticket next to a candle… endless rituals in the hope of getting rich!
Tell us which of these places you are going to visit? Which Spanish Christmas tradition do you really want to see?
At Perfect Venue we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!