“Belén, campanas de Belén,
Que los ángeles tocan
Qué nueva me traéis?”
“Bethlehem, bells from Bethlehem,
That the angels play
What’s new that you bring me ?”
Do you know this Christmas song? Well, it’s the most popular Christmas carol in Spain. When you hear this tune on the radio, in the shops, on the street and just about everywhere, you know Christmas is coming.
Do you want to know more about our Christmas traditions? If you do, look at the list of Christmas-related customs I’ve put below.
- Los Villancicos = Christmas Carols
These are the ideas of Christmas, and they all focus on the theme of the baby Jesus. The acoustic touch comes from the tambourine and the zambomba (a drum-like instrument from Andalusia). And I assure you this combination is perfect to make you feel happy and in the mood to dance.
- Luces navideñas = Christmas Lights
The lighting of the Christmas lights marks the official start of the holidays. All the cities are decorated with these types of lights, which makes us feel like we’re living inside a happy fairy tale.
- Lotería de Navidad = Christmas Lottery
On December 22nd all Spaniards are avidly watching the Christmas Lottery on TV, waiting to see if we’ve won. We love to dream of winning the Lottery’s grand prize (called el Gordo).
That’s why in Spain people buy the National Christmas Lottery, and it’s always natural to share a décimo (the minimum fraction you can buy to participate, costing 20 euros). And what about you? What would you do if you won four million euros?
Árbol de Navidad = Christmas Tree
This is not originally a Spanish tradition, but it’s very common during the long weekend in early December for the family to decorate the tree and the rest of the house.
- Belén o el Nacimiento = Nativity Scene or The Birth
Many Spanish families set up a nativity scene, which represents the birth of the baby Jesus. The simplest ones are made up of figurines with the main characters: the baby Jesus, Joseph, the Virgin Mary, the ox and the mule. And there are much more elaborate ones with more figurines, such as the Magi, also known as the Three Wise Men or Three Kings.
- El mercadillo navideño = The Christmas Market
In each city there is a Christmas market where you can find all kinds of Christmas decorations. It’s where you can really experience the special feeling of these days thanks to the lighting, music, and the joy coming from the people at the markets.
- Turrón (nougat), Marzipan and Polvorones (traditional doughy cookies)
We finish this list of customs with a sweet touch. Turrón, marzipan, and polvorones are the traditional sweets par excellence. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without these delicious desserts. A good host always offers these sweets to their guests, and you will also make a good impression if you bring them with you as a gift.
These are the traditions we enjoy in Spain at Christmastime. But the most important thing is to be with family and friends, share the happiness of these days and feel the Christmas spirit.
Learn more about how Spaniards celebrate the famous Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve!
Foto de la portada de alexhstock.