Christmas Traditions in Spain

Spain is predominantly a Catholic country and it is expected that Christmas is celebrated as a religious event.

Since its patron saint is Virgin Mary, December 8 is celebrated as the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The celebration is done in Seville’s huge Gothic cathedral with the traditional los Seises or the “dance of six”. However, these days, the ritual is no longer performed by six individuals but by ten boys who are dressed elaborately. Their movements are very precise and the gestures are all choreographed beautifully and moving.

Christmas is very festive in Spain especially during Christmas Eve where stars glitter in the evening sky and oil lamps are lighted in every household. After the Midnight Mass comes dinner. Thereafter streets are filled with people dancing and merrymaking. Jota is a special Christmas dance with people swaying their bodies to the different sounds of castanets and guitars.

Most Spanish households have their own manger just as they are also found in churches and cathedrals. They are adorned with wooden figures. The Three Wise Men were considered by the children as the gift bearers. They have their own feast which falls on January 6. The cow is especially honored by Spanish people every Christmas because of how the animal is believed to have kept Jesus warmth during birth.

Shoes are usually stuffed with barley or straw because they are intended for camels who need to bring their masters through the business of the night. The morning after, these barleys are replace with gifts. Usually, shoes are placed in balconies in the evening of January 6. Children believe that they will be filled with presents by the wise Men.

Noche Buena is how the Spanish calls their Christmas Eve. It literally means “the Good Night”. It is an opportune time for families to gather around the Nativity and rejoice over the birth of Jesus Christ. Turron is a special Christmas treat which is like an almond candy and served as a holiday delicacy.
Holy Innocents Day is celebrated on December 28. Different towns and villages have young boys gather in a bonfire. One of them is selected as a mayor who will give out orders to town people. These chores may include sweeping the streets. Non compliance will mean paying for fines which will be used to pay off for the celebration expenses.

During the feast of the Epiphany in January 6, children receive gifts which they believe came from the Three Wise Men who traveled all the way to Bethlehem. Thus, children have their windows filled with barley and wheat displayed on their windowsills or balconies. Of the Three Wise Men,Balthazar is their favorite because of how he believes to leave the presents.

Navidad is Christmas in Spanish. During the holidays, families and friends exchange Christmas presents, go to church and stage Christmas plays. The customary swinging during solstice time is an ancient tradition that encourages the sun to go even higher up in the sky.

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