Máximo Álvarez-Garmón December 12th 2017

A Happy Spanish Christmas!


Christmas for many Northern Europeans is synonymous with the cold, snow, ice and mulled wine to warm through cold hands! It may seem counter intuitive to spend Christmas in sunny Marbella, however it can be just as magical and ‘Christmassy’ here as in colder climes – and with temperatures which are much more pleasant than our colder counterparts.

Christmas in Spain really begins with a tradition that has the country gripped on 22nd December – the Christmas lottery or Lotería de Navidad. Officially called the Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad, it is more commonly known as El Gordo – or the Big One! It is the largest lottery draw in the world and the second longest running, continuing even throughout the Spanish Civil War. For most Spaniards, the lottery draw is the real beginning of Christmas. For those who win, Christmas really does come early!

Just two days later is the main event in Spain, 24th December, Christmas Eve or Nochebuena. The tradition is for families to gather together and is very much the more the merrier. There is still the tradition for Catholic Spanish to attend the Misa del Gallo, or Midnight Mass. Here Christmas Carols are sung, using traditional instruments such as the zambomba, which is a drum very much of the season, as well as a carraca, which is a ratchet-type instrument. Tambourines and guitars are also played in this joyful service.

A relatively new custom is the bringing of presents on Christmas Eve by Father Christmas or Papà Noel. More traditionally, Olentzero the coal vendor would descend from the Basque mountains with gifts for the good children and coal for the naughty ones, with Tió Nadal doing the honours in the Catalonia and Aragon regions.

Christmas may not have snow in Marbella but there are Spanish traditions aplenty with families gathering to enjoy the festive season and the sunshine together!

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