Christmas traditions in Spain

Big time for family celebrations

Christmas is a time of family union, rest and, for many, a moment of reflection. This period of the year is one of the main celebrations of Christianity and is held every December 25 commemorates the birth of Jesus


Decoration and traditions

Mid  November it begins  to make evident the proximity of the holidays in Spain with the called campaign of Christmas in the trade sector: shopping centres, the windows of the shops and streets of the city are decorated with lights and all kinds of related Christmas ornaments. In addition, stores are filled with toys and gifts, offering from very early deals to encourage Spaniards to do their Christmas shopping.


Bars and restaurants

Also the bars and restaurants become meeting place for friends and co-workers in the traditional dinners. All this is accompanied by the official start of the winter in Spain, whose starts in December 21st. In short, the Christmas traditions of Spain, except for a number of peculiarities which are listed below, are similar to those of the rest of Europe in relation to the Christmas dinner, family reunion, and gifts.

El Portal de Belen

This one is possibly the decorative element that most distinguishes Christmas in Spain is, without doubt, the “Portal de Belen”, representation of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Catholic religion. Along with the typical Christmas tree, Bethlehem is mounted in homes, shops, churches and even the streets, which have come to see Nativity scenes with characters life-size and even real animals. In all over Belén you can’t miss as main part the child Jesus next to the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph in a Nativity scene. Traditionally, this scene is accompanied by two fundamental animals: Mule and ox. However, if you want to extend, can be representations of the three wise men coming to the portal, the pastors gathered for worship to the newly born, etc. Similarly, attention especially the fact that communities like Catalonia and Madrid have, in addition to the characters named above, other prototypical as the famous “caganer” in Catalonia, figure showing a peasant making their needs near the portal, or la “castañera” in Madrid.


Another very typical decorative element in Spain is commonly called Christmas plant, whose real name is poinsettia or Flor de Pascua. By the deep red colour of its leaves, the poisentia has become a representative of the Spanish Christmas item. We can be found in homes, businesses or even around the city or town. In addition, this plant also has become a very common Christmas gift. This houseplant is of Mexican origin and can last several years, although in the majority of Spanish homes is it spoiled after Christmas flourish because tend to ignore the care that entails.

Peoples and traditions

In the villages of Spain still is customary among children asking the “aguinaldo”, which is to go from House to House singing Christmas carols in return for a gift, sweets, candies, or simply some money. Some children may be accompanied by tambourines or zambomba, very typical Christmas instruments in all Spain.

The Christmas lottery draw


Another tradition of Christmas in Spain is the extraordinary drawing of Navidad or Lotería de Navidad that takes place on December 22 from 9:15 o’clock. This Sweepstakes is done since 1812, when it was held in Cadiz, and for many Spaniards, is the activity that gives home to the Christmas celebrations. The draw is held in the salon of drawings of Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, in Madrid and the maximum prize is known as El Gordo. Although the draw is made in December, lottery tenths can be purchased in different administrations since July and the price is €20 for each tenth. As approaching the month of November and during the same period of Christmas, in the administrations of lottery of different peoples and cities in Spain are often created queues of people waiting to buy your tenth.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day

The dinner of Christmas Eve in Spain takes place every December 24. This dinner, prior to Christmas day, is a familiar rite and is usually celebrated in the homes of the Spaniards with the family.

Although the dishes vary depending on each family and each area of Spain, there is something that is always true: is a very generous dinner, in which there are starters, main dish, dessert and, finally, a wide variety of sweets including nougat and marzipan. As for entrees, the shrimps and prawns are a dish that usually does not miss. The main dish is usually some meat, from lamb to pork, and even Stuffed Turkey.

Also tradition that night the King of Spain issued an address to all Spaniards, which is broadcast on television. In this link you can read speech of his Majesty King Felipe VI in the year 2014.

The day after Christmas Eve dinner, i.e. December 25, held on Christmas day. Although it is normal in Spain to give gifts the day of Kings, theme which we will discuss below, is increasingly common among many families that delivered this day, which is representative of Father Christmas or Santa Claus figure by the influence of the Anglo-Saxon culture. Christmas day is common to continue meetings and family meals, being the most common thing that takes place the famous food of Christmas at noon.

Christmas Eve and new year

Spain continues with Christmas atmosphere until it arrives on 31 December and celebrated the new year’s Eve, also known as eve of new year’s Eve or new year’s Eve night. Tonight says goodbye to the year including Fireworks, parties, celebrations, and the typical twelve bells that are accompanied with the famous twelve grapes of luck. The custom of the twelve grapes originated in 1909 and is considered a rite to enter the new year with luck.

Although, as on Christmas Eve, the vast majority of families are gathering at home for dinner, many families or groups of friends decide to rent a cottage or make a trip to Madrid or some other central city of Spain. After the twelve chimes, family and friends is saluting the new year, either in person or via message or phone call. The chimes are issued each year by several television networks from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

Three Kings day

Finally, the celebrations are completed January 6, the day of Kings. This day they are engaged mainly children, since that day they receive gifts as expected during the holiday season.

A day before the day of celebration you can see streets the popular Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, moment in which children take advantage of to greet them and give them his letter with the list of gifts wishing to receive. Later, children will go to sleep and the next day found the gifts that the three wise men (Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar) have brought them under the Christmas tree.

Typical sweet of this day is the twisted roll of Kings, tart carrying dried fruits in the form of precious stones that adorned the robes of Kings mages. Usually during the afternoon snack, all eat it in the hope of finding the two surprises that hides the Roscón of Kings and be, well crowned as the King or Queen of the home, or, on the contrary, intended to pay the roscón next year. The first surprise is a figure in miniature of a typical character of Christmas, usually one of the three wise men. On the contrary, the second surprise consists of a dry bean which, according to tradition, gives bad luck who finds it, having this person who pay the roscón next year.