Now that such a holiday is here, we’ll be talking about some Spanish Christmas traditions. We may find out that many of our cherished traditions and customs have come a really long way. It does not matter, though, if your intentions are good and… mostly if you behaved during this year.
SETTING UP THE SPANISH CHRISTMAS TREE AND CRIB
These are considered staple Christmas celebrations in Spain. The tree and the crib are very important Christmas symbols with quite diverging origins, regardless the crib may be placed quite close or even under the tree.
The origins of the tree fall back to very old times. As you know, Christmas trees are evergreen. These symbolize eternal life in several cultures, including Egyptian, Chinese, and Hebrew; besides, evergreen trees were used in Scandinavian countries to scare off evil beings, namely the Devil, and were introduced in the American Christmas through German immigrants.
The crib is a depiction of the conditions surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ, which according to tradition took a place in a barn. But going further beyond that most nativities, it may also show the city of Bethlehem. A little doll representing Jesus is kept hidden and then placed at the centre of the crib at midnight: this is the accepted-by-tradition hour of His birth.
BUYING THE CAGANER IN SOME CHRISTMAS FAIR AND SET IT UP IN THE CRIB
A definite standout among Spanish Christmas traditions, the caganer (literally: the pooper) is a figurine representing the act of defecation, usually a peasant with a typical Catalan barretina (red hat) and in a squat position who, needless to add, completing a very personal function.
The caganer has had so much impact that in certain places it is placed somewhere in a way that children need to locate it. The Catholic Church is tolerating it, while some do not agree with the pertinence of such a figurine. For a number of commentators, the caganer is a necessary rupture and breathes spontaneity in a far too formal arrangement.
SOME FOOD THAT ARE SPANISH XMAS TRADITIONS
Of course, food is central to the Christmas holiday, as families get together and have dinner close to midnight. However, when it comes to the more traditional meals, we should be pointing to desserts.
In this group, we count polvorones (or polvorón cookies). They’re made of flour, milk, sugar, and nuts (especially almonds), and we suppose that, since butter is not used in their preparation, they become really crumbly. Although they are especially requested for the Christmas holiday, over the years they have become a massively requested all-year-round dessert.
Typically from Southwestern Europe, turrones (a close relative to the Italian torroni) are a nougat confection (because it is made of sugar, honey, and egg white), where toasted almonds and other forms of nut are tossed in. The mixture can be shaped either as a rectangle or a round cake: it is awesome in any presentation. And it has become so traditional and essential that several of its forms, whether Spanish or Italian, enjoy EU-protected geographical status (PGI), particularly Jijona, turrón de Alicante and the Catalan torrò d’agramunt.
VISITING SOME SPANISH CHRISTMAS MARKET
We pointed out in a recent article that one of the most ancient Spanish Christmas traditions, the Christmas markets populate cities and become the main attraction of the season. Here you may not only find all that you need to decorate and get your home prepared for the holiday but also explore the particular market’s regional gastronomy, and winery and attend special events. Christmas markets turn into the headliner of the period.
VILLANCICOS (SPANISH CHRISTMAS CAROLS)
Oh, Christmas carols! They’re moody. They’re everywhere. It’s even the title of likely the most Charles Dickens’ novel. As to these hymns or songs when sung in Spanish, the result is –hopefully! – less horrifying than being haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
A couple of them, Noche de paz and Blanca Navidad, are set against the chords of universally known songs (Austrian priest Joseph Mohr’s 1818 poignant Silent Night and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, respectively).
But there are many more, and some of them are not as solemn as the aforementioned! Examples are Hacia Belén va una burra (Towards Bethlehem goes a donkey, jingle, jingle); Vamos, pastores, vamos; Los peces en el río (The Fish in the River), etc.
Initially of liturgical use and sung in churches, Christmas carols, a subgroup in Christian music, are part of popular music as well and may be heard around in squares and other public places.
AS A CONCLUSION
Many more Spanish Christmas traditions, such as having a child tell the lottery’s winning number, remain to date. But from here we want to wish you all Happy Holidays and remind you that the incoming 2023 will also present the opportunity to start learning or continue to improve your Spanish. We hope you all enjoy the season… And you should come soon to Spain to sing a carol with us!
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