by Erin Elaine
This is my second year in Madrid, and my second time experiencing the beautiful lights in Madrid and learning more about Christmas traditions here in Spain. I met up with a friend to ride the Navibus [Navidad Bus] which is an open-top bus that takes you to all the major Christmas lights in the city. It was a fun and efficient way to see lots of beautiful decorations. Below are some of my pictures, interspersed with a mini culture lesson about Christmas traditions in Spain:
How Christmas is Celebrated in Spain:
In Spain, Christmas Day is somewhat less important than Kings Day. On Christmas Day, the family usually has a feast, and they exchange one or two small gifts. The rest of the gifts are saved until January 6th, Kings Day (Día de Los Reyes Magos). There is a huge parade to welcome the Kings (what Americans would call the “three wise men”) who arrive via camels. These are the men who bring presents to children, not Santa.
Classic Christmas Foods in Spain:
There are two classic Christmas foods here. The first is Turrón, which is nougat. It comes in every flavor under the sun – white chocolate, caramel, strawberry – but the classic is chocolate with almonds. Some of them are made hard and crunchy, others are softer and more fudge-like. The second food is Roscón de Reyes, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th. It’s a large donut-shaped pastry, often filled with cream and topped with a little bit of dried fruit.
The Catalan Yule Log:
By far the strangest Christmas tradition in Spain. Basically, children hit the yule log with sticks and sing for it to poop out presents for them. You can read more about it and even read the lyrics to the slightly disturbing song by clicking here.
Cortylandia, pictures below:
This is a 4-story animatronic display near Sol, the center of the city. Six times a day the bears dance and sing for about 15 minutes. It was a bit cheesy to watch, but I can imagine it would be incredibly fun to see as a kid. The street was absolutely packed with families when I went. It’s called Cortylandia because it’s on the side of the El Corte Ingles building, probably the biggest department store chain in Spain.
Sorteo de Navidad:
The Christmas Lottery is incredibly popular in Spain. It typically offers the largest jackpot of the year, and for many people it’s a tradition to buy an annual ticket (or 3, or 8). The lottery booths that normally have one customer at a time suddenly have lines 10 people long. Shops/booths that are closed the entire year will open just for the month of December to sell lotto tickets. People buy tickets from waiters while waiting for their food to arrive in a restaurant. People look forward to the annual tv commercial like Americans look forward to Superbowl commercials (this year’s commercial was a major letdown and has become a running joke). In general, Spaniards love to waste their money on this tradition.
Below are some pictures of the giant tree in Sol, which you can even go inside!
I won’t actually be in Madrid during Christmas. I’m taking the opportunity to travel, assuming this will be my last year living in Europe. I do look forward to celebrating Christmas with my family next year. 🙂
My itinerary for this Christmas:
Dec 21 – fly to Prague, Czech Republic
Dec 23 – day trip to Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
Dec 26 – train to Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Dec 28 – train to Salzburg, Austria
Dec 30 – day trip to Hallstadt, Austria
Jan 1 – train to Lake Bled, Slovenia
Jan 4 – train to Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jan 7 – fly home, back to work the next day