It couldn’t be otherwise, we are big fans of celebrations and family gatherings. And now that Christmas is coming, it’s time to shine! In Spain, the Christmas period lasts even longer than in other countries - children don’t start school until January 8th! Do you want to know why? Find out about our lunches and dinners calendar throughout these dates, and dare to discover our crazy Catalan and Spanish Christmas traditions!
|24th Dec||Christmas Eve|
|26th Dec||Sant Esteve (Catalonia)|
|31st Dec||New Year's Eve|
|1st Jan||New Year|
|5th Jan||Three Wise Men Parade|
|6th Jan||Three Wise Men Day|
Tió de Nadal o Caga tió (literally translated, the pooping log)
Yes, such thing does exist. Kids feed this cutie on the picture below with some food (yogurts, fruit…) for several weeks. On the 25th of December, children beat the log with a stick while singing a typical Catalan song. Right afterwards, the tió poops some presents that magically appear under the blanket that covers it. Isn’t it an original tradition? If you haven’t understood it yet, you can watch this video explained by the American actress Kate McKinnon.
Reyes Magos and their parade (5th of January)
The Three Wise Men (Reyes Magos), travelling from Orient with their camels, leave presents in every house on the 6th of January. On the previous evening, they offer a parade with their pages in many locations around the country, while receiving children’s last wishes letters and throwing sweets from their carriages. An impressive show you shouldn’t miss if you’re in Barcelona that day!
Belén (nativity scene)
It is very typical to place the representation of the birth of Jesus at home, like the one on the picture below. No one misses Joseph, Mary and their baby, with their cow and donkey on its stable or the Three Wise Men with their camels. Even if you are not religious, it has become a tradition for a lot of people and kids love to build it up with every kind of figurine.
In Catalonia, moreover, it becomes even more exciting. We have an extra figurine named Caganer (literally translated, pooper). It is almost sacred for us to include it, and we love to find it in other “belenes” when we visit our friends’ houses. It is so popular that even football players, politicians and cartoons have their own representation. More scatological yet funny traditions!
New Year’s Eve
Once it’s time to change the year, it is sure there will be hugs, fireworks and bottles of champagne, but in Spain we also welcome it with a very very tasteful ritual. On every TV channel, a few moments before midnight, a giant clock (usually the one at Plaza del Sol in Madrid) starts a countdown consisting of 12 ring bells, till welcoming the new year. Where is the mystery? We always eat a grape with each one of the bells! It is a challenge not to choke and if you don’t do it, bad luck may call on your door!
What’s more important in Christmas than food?
In order to feel really integrated in our Christmas culture, you need to taste our top three: neules, a kind of Catalan biscuit bar; turrón (nougat); and polvorones (shortbread cookie).
And as for family meals, it is a Catalan tradition to have escudella on the 25th, a typical soup with galets and a huge meatball, and cannelloni on the 26th, for Sant Esteve, with the leftovers of the previous days.
Oh, to finish, just mentioning that one of the most typical presents that you receive in your job (if you are lucky enough to receive any presents) is a ham bone! Are you envious? We would be!
Fira de Santa Llúcia and other Christmas spots
In case you want to enjoy the Christmas spirit in Barcelona, and get plenty of caganers as a souvenir for your family and friends, you can visit the Fira de Santa Llúcia in front of the cathedral. It is a beautiful and packed Christmas market where you’ll find all kind of figurines for the nativity scene and tiós of all sizes.
In plaça Sant Jaume (the city hall square), you will also see a real-life nativity scene, and you’ll find some big Christmas trees all around the city, specially in the shopping centers. If you are lucky, you may also encounter some children singing Christmas carols in the city center. Christmas lights are all around the city as well, yet the most special for Barcelona citizens this year are the ones in Las Ramblas - they pay a special tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack last summer.
We invite you to discover our city in this fabulous period!
Bon Nadal, Merry Christmas and best wishes from ESN Barcelona UPF!