Christmas in Spain

How do I wish someone there a Happy Christmas?

  • ¡Feliz Navidad!

When do they give presents?

  • On the morning of January 6. Although, influenced by films and TV shows from other countries, some people have started to give presents on Christmas Day.

Who brings the presents?

  • Los Reyes Magos – the Three Kings – bring the gifts, as they did for the baby Jesus.

What’s on the menu?

  • The main meal takes place on Christmas Eve and includes a major dish like lamb, cod or shellfish, depending on the region. Sweet treats are also a staple of a Spanish Christmas, with turrón (nougat) a favourite.

Any other traditions I should know about?

  • On December 22nd people all over Spain keep their fingers crossed for El Gordo, a lottery that translates as ‘The Fat One’. The draw takes place live on TV and lasts all morning.
  • With the presents arriving on January 6, Christmas Day is a quieter affair. People often go for a walk, have a drink in a bar and a meal with the family.
  • December 28th is el Día de los Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents Day). The equivalent of April Fool’s Day, people play practical jokes on each other and nonsense stories appear in the news.
  • Nativity scenes are popular in Spain, but watch out for a twist in the region of Cataluña. Here an extra figure – el caganer – appears. He’s a shepherd with his trousers dropped, squatting and answering the call of nature somewhere in the scene.
  • It’s tradition to eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve – one for each strike of the clock. It’s said to bring luck and prosperity for the year ahead. You might see Spaniards eating their grapes in town squares around the country, including the famous Puerta del Sol in Madrid.
  • Most towns and cities organise a parade on January 5th to welcome the Three Kings. Spanish kids don’t get long to play with their presents. On January 7th – the day after they get their gifts – the holidays are over and they’re straight back to school.