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Popular Christmas Traditions and Christmas Decorations in Spain

Around the world, Christmas is one of the most famous holidays. In Spain, as well as in many other countries, this holiday focuses on the celebration of the birth of Christ. This is the time when families come together to celebrate and share the joy of the season with songs, dances and family meals. The handmade Christmas trees and decorations, as well as the Nativity scene are familiar sights. Although these traditions are common in many countries, some aspects of the Christmas holidays are unique to Spain.

Before the Christmas holidays, Spaniards celebrate a tradition called “Hogueras” (bonfires). It is a celebration of the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year. At this time, people jump over a bonfire, symbolizing protection from disease. Also during the winter solstice, swings are built to be used by people in the belief that by swinging high they will raise the sun higher in the sky.

On Christmas Eve, tiny lamps are lit in village windows, representing the stars in the Christmas Eve sky. At midnight, bells ring in each of the villages, calling everyone to “La Misa Del Gallo”, the Mass of the Rooster. It is so called because the rooster was known as the first of the animals to announce the birth of Christ.

After midnight mass, Christmas dinner is served. The traditional festive meal includes the “Pavo Trufado de Navidad”, which is a Christmas turkey with truffles. Roast lamb, suckling pig, duck and seafood such as lobster, prawns, trout and salmon may also be served, depending on which part of the country one is in. Traditional desserts can include marzipan, made with honey, almonds and eggs, and polvorones, which is sweetbread. Nuts, dried fruits and caramel cream are among the other desserts served. No meal is complete without a drink. Cava is the Spanish champagne, and it often accompanies the Christmas meal.

In many countries, a visit from Santa Claus is an important part of a Christmas party. However, in Spain this is not the case. Children receive small gifts from “Papa Noel” at Christmas, but that’s not a big part of the festivities. Instead, they celebrate January 6, which is Three Kings Day, a day commemorating the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to Baby Jesus. On January 5, children take part in a parade to see the Three Kings when they come to their village or town. When they have the opportunity, they ask the Three Kings for the gifts they hope for. On the eve of this special day, the children leave their shoes where they are easily found. They are filled with straw and carrots for the camels on which the Magi travel. The next morning the straw and carrots were gone, replaced by gifts. On this day, a special dessert is served, the “Roscon de los Reyes” which is a large circular cake. It is decorated with candied fruits, which represent the jewels that appeared on the robes of the Three Kings. There’s a surprise baked into the cake, and whoever finds it becomes the king or queen of the house.

The celebration of Christmas in Spain is similar to how other countries celebrate it with Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths. But by also having its own unique traditions, a visitor can gain insight into the Spanish people and their lives. Knowing the traditions of various countries like Spain can give a new appreciation for the Christmas holidays around the world.

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