Celebrating Christmas in Spain: A Festive Journey from December 24 to January 6th

By Thomas Kydd

Copywriter at Up!

In Spain, Christmas is a cherished season that spans from December 24 to January 6, embodying a quest for happiness, joy, and family harmony. This festive period merges religious traditions with secular customs, creating a vibrant celebration that is uniquely Spanish.

The Start of Spanish Christmas: Lottery and Family Gatherings

The anticipation of Christmas officially begins on December 22 with the grand draw of the National Lottery. This event, eagerly awaited by many who purchase lottery tickets months in advance, marks the onset of the festive season. Whether they win or not, everyone feels the Christmas spirit as they start finalizing their holiday preparations.

Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena, is fervently celebrated on December 24. Families across Spain gather for a lavish dinner featuring an array of meats, fine wines, and an assortment of sweets that are rarely enjoyed at other times of the year. For devout believers, the night extends beyond dinner to the Misa del Gallo (Midnight Mass), where the birth of Jesus is celebrated with traditional carols played on zambombas, tambourines, and guitars.

In many households, especially those with children, Christmas Eve is also when Santa Claus, known locally as Papa Noel, or regional figures like the Basque Country's Olentzero and Catalonia's Tió de Nadal, deliver gifts to well-behaved children.

Christmas Day and Beyond

Despite the previous night's feast, families reconvene on December 25 for a Christmas Day meal, lighter than the night before but no less joyful. This day is particularly special for children who share and enjoy their new gifts, often seen trying out new bikes or skating through the streets.

The holiday spirit continues with more celebrations leading up to New Year's Eve. December 28 marks the Day of the Holy Innocents, a time traditionally for remembrance in the Catholic faith but now primarily known for playful pranks and jokes among friends and family.

Welcoming the New Year

New Year's Eve in Spain is less about family and more about celebrating with friends. After enjoying a festive dinner, everyone prepares for the midnight countdown by eating the "12 grapes of luck," one for each chime of the clock, ensuring good fortune for the year ahead. As the new year begins, celebrations continue into the early hours, leading to a quiet New Year's Day as many recover from the night's festivities.

The Grand Finale: Three Kings' Day

The festive season reaches its climax on January 5 with the grand parades featuring the Three Wise Men, who greet children with candy and gifts. That night, children clean their shoes and leave them out for the Wise Men, who, by morning, fill them with gifts.

However, the festive joy dims slightly on the afternoon of January 6, as children realize their holidays are ending and adults prepare to return to their routines. But the memories of the season linger, sustaining everyone until the next Christmas.

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