Spain takes its Christmas traditions seriously. We embellish our towns with lots of lights, businesses display festive decorations, and plans are made to have dinner with friends and family.
However, there are some Christmas traditions in Spain that you may find a bit odd.
Christmas unofficially starts on December 22nd
Although lights and decorations have been up for weeks, the unofficial start of Christmas is the Day the ‘Gordo’ National Lottery is celebrated, which is always the morning of December 22nd. Even Spaniards who never gamble will typically end up with a lottery ticket.
Most Spaniards now put up a Christmas tree in their homes. However, until fairly recent times, a Spanish home would only display a Nativity scene, what we call a ‘Belén‘ (Bethlehem in Spanish). As a rule, Spaniards still prefer ‘Belenes‘ to trees and almost every town in Spain will set up a large one in a public space.
At least four family dinners
Spaniards like to have dinner together. As most families still live fairly close together, Christmas is an opportunity to get together and celebrate. Families will gather for Christmas Eve and Day dinners, New Year’s Eve and Day dinners, and even Epiphany Eve and Day dinners.
What we eat
There is always seafood. We prefer lamb to other meats. Turkey is unheard of. There will always be some turrón (sweet almond nougat) and mazapán (marzipan) for dessert.
New Year’s 12 Grapes
New Year’s is a family event and the whole family stays up. After dinner, we get ready for the countdown with our twelve grapes (one every second). These are eaten for good luck.
Children receive presents from the Wise Men on the morning of January 6th (The Epiphany) and this is when we exchange Christmas presents. January 6th is when Christmas officially ends.