Christmas in Spain – Customs and Traditions

Christmas in Spain is full of unique customs and traditions.

Christmas is an important period in Spain. The Spanish celebrate Christmas differently than the people in the United States. These celebrations usually begin as early as December 22, and they will last until January 6. Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25 in Spain, and it is considered a religious and cultural day.

Let’s check out some of the customs and traditions you will encounter during the Christmas period in Spain!

Christmas customs and traditions in Spain

The Spanish version of Christmas is unique, as the traditions vary from one place to another. However, the most common traditions are usually shared because of the Christian faith that many Spaniards follow. Christmas is a wonderful period in Spain because people are in a celebratory mood.

Christmas period in Spain usually lasts from the 24th of December through January 6 and when you are in Spain you should take you to explore some of the regions in Spain. It is important to understand that there is no Santa Claus in Spain and Father Christmas is never celebrated.

The Christmas traditions in Spain might slightly vary from others in the world as some traditions are unique to Spain. Here are some of the traditions that you are going to find more common in Spain.

Reyes Magos

There is a common tradition around the country that Reyes Magos usually brings gifts to the children. The presentation of the gifts usually occurs on January 6, and this means that they will have to wait for twelve more days before they can get their Christmas presents on this day. 

The day is also associated with the feast of epiphany, and it marks the beginning of the new year when people begin to prepare to go back to work and the children to go back to school. In major towns around Spain, you will find that the kids usually participate in a type of parade as they ride on unique floats and throw candy and sweets to other children. 

The cabalgata, as the parade is popularly known around Spain, is a perfect opportunity for you to interact with the Spanish kids and the entire population as they celebrate this period. These events are usually unique in every city around Spain.

Fat lottery

During the Christmas period, it was a common belief around Spain that people should participate in some kind of lottery. During this period, you will find that many people across the country will buy a ticket and they will then wait for the lottery winning numbers.

There is usually a common Christmas lottery number called El Gordo or the “Fat One”, and the winning numbers are usually announced on national television, as people wait anxiously as the number is being announced.

You will find that young people will go on singing about the winning numbers and the total jackpot amount.

Portal de Belén

This is one of the most crucial parts of the holiday and you are going to get an insight into the types of traditions that are more prevalent in different parts of Spain. The Portal de Belén is the common Christmas decoration, and you will find that the homes, local councils, and shops usually do the decorations during the Christmas period.

Since a large population of people in Spain are Catholic then you will find nativity scenes spread all over the country. There are smaller models which represent the nativity scenes and the birth of Jesus Christ. Depending on the region, you might find simple models such as Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus in a manger to more complex nativity scenes with even cattle and sheep. 

The culture around Spain is largely based on the Catholic Church and Christianity. In some places, you will find caganer as well.

The Caga Tió

In several parts of Spain, especially in the Catalonia region, there are unique Christmas traditions that are only associated with this part of the country. The scatological Christmas decorations in the area feature a log that is decorated with legs and faces, and it is kept in the house covered in a blanket so that it does not get cold. 

This is commonly called Caga Tio and during Christmas, the children in the region will smack the log with sticks and sing songs that implores the log to poop sweets for them. The sweets and candies are usually tied on it and whenever the log is smacked with sticks it will then release the sweets.

In a situation where no candies come out, they will then peel off the blanket and release the sweets and candies.

Santa Claus in Spain

This is one of a kind in Spain and you are going to find that Santa Claus exists only in the Basque country. The name of Santa in the region is called Olentzero and it is a giant creature that is dressed in peasant clothing and smoking a pipe.

On December 23 he is seen in Bilbao, and he will then travel through the grand via towards the Arriaga center. This is where Santa will then leave presents for the children on Christmas Eve.

Midnight mass

On Christmas Eve you are going to find that many people across Spain will go to a midnight mass. The mass usually comes after Christmas Eve dinner, and it is mostly meant to reaffirm the faith of the people in the Christian faith and the birth of Jesus Christ.

The mass is usually short, as people will join their friends and family in celebrating some of the unique features that make this place outstanding.

Christmas eve dinner in Spain

Perhaps it is important to understand that many Spaniards usually value Christmas Eve because it is a perfect time for them to prepare some of the amazing dishes that you will only find here. The traditional Spanish Christmas food is usually consumed throughout December and the main feast usually occurs on Christmas Eve. 

The obligatory dish that you will find is fish, seafood, and serrano ham, which forms a big part of the menu in Spain. The Spanish people usually take this time seriously and you will find them preparing these dishes throughout the day.

The most common dessert that people eat are almond-sweet churros which are similar to nougat and Roscón de Reyes. The Roscón de Reyes is a cake that is filled with whipped cream and candied fruits on top or a bean or figurines on the side. The cake is often eaten on January 6th, and it is a common phenomenon for people to eat it before going back to work. The Spanish believe that when you get a slice with the toy you win, and you are going to pay for the next year Roscón.

Christmas tree in Spain

Perhaps this is one of the most fundamental aspects of any Christmas, and it’s no different for Spain. The origin of the Christmas tree dates back to the 16th century and ever since then, it has become more common.

In Spain, a Christmas tree appeared in the 17th century and you will find it in Madrid Square. The culture of decorating the Christmas tree has continued to grow over the years and you can find it currently all over the country.

Christmas carols in Spain

Christmas carols play a big part in the Christmas tradition in Spain. During the holiday period, you can hear a wide array of music from different parts of the country. The traditional Christmas music is called villanicos and it originates from the Middle Age. These traditional melodies were often sung by children, and they are religious-themed. 

Flamenco is common in Spain as well. The most important time in Spain is nochebuena which means goodnight and the people will often gather at the table and enjoy a lengthy meal before they can attend a Christmas mass. It is a perfect time to bond with fellow friends and family members. 

Some of the typical Christmas sweets served during the period include polvorones, marzipan, and turrons. Turrons have become more popular, especially with the Christian traditions taking over Spain.

Cava wine

After you have consumed your sweets during the Christmas Eve dinner the next aspect is to sample some of the Spanish wines. The cava wine is similar to champagne, and it is produced in the Catalonia region.

In the last century, the cava wines have increased in popularity in Spain and you can learn more about this wine by joining a wine-tasting tour. It is a perfect opportunity for you to learn more about Spanish history as well as the different values that they have in the region.

Twelve grapes on Christmas Eve 

Old night or Noche Vieja is a common term used to describe New Year’s Eve in Spain. There is a common tradition around Spain in which people will gather before the clock ticks to the next year. On Christmas Eve the families will have twelve green grapes which they are ready to strike by the new year.

People believe that if you can consume the twelve grapes then you are guaranteed a prosperous new year with wealth and health. The countdown usually happens on live television, and you can participate in the largest countdown in Spain Times Square in Puerta del Sol.

Let’s learn more about the Christmas in the neighboring countries of Spain:

Aurimas Bio

Hi there! I’m Aurimas, a man behind Go Look Explore. I’m passionate about hiking, exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, and everything outdoors related. Let’s connect.