The Christmas season in Spain goes from December 24th until January 6th with the Kings. The kids are on school holidays. The tradition is to have dinner all together with the families, people travel all around Spain to get on time to their houses, to see family and friends.
Streets, stores and storefronts are decorated with all kind of christmas ornaments, and most of the places have the typical Poinsettia (flor de Pascua).
Bars and restaurants are very busy by this time, celebrating dinners and lunches for businesses and friends, who book in advance for the occasion.
The most particular element from the spanish decoration is the Nativity Scene (Portal de Belén), which represents the birth of Jesus, a custom of the Catholic religion. This “portal” is present in almost every household and stores, and it is usually put together with the family, during the holiday that starts on december 8th, and disassembled after the kings have been on January 6th with the christmas tree.
The tradition of some spanish towns, is that the children go singing Christmas carols through the houses, in exchange for some gift.
Before chrismas day they have a Christmas raffle (El Gordo). They start buying lottery tickets from the summer, they have a price of 20€ each, and the draw is done on december 22nd. It is common to give a Christmas ticket as a gift or to buy it among friends. It´s been a tradition since 1812.
On the 24th they have a huge dinner, with close family. I mean huge because to start they have a big table, with cheeses, prawns (important in every household), spanish ham, stuffed eggs, canapes and patés, this is served buffet style. Later, everyone sits down at the table for a meal, that is usually meat (in all its versions and types, lamb, pork or veal), accompanied by potatoes or some sort of salad. Menus may vary around Spain and family, but it’s almost always like that. when dinner is over, a dessert is usually served, followed by a sweet table, with nougat (turrón español), marzipans and chocolates.
The day after, on the 25th, most families have lunch together, with the food left overs from the night before.
The presents tradition is on the kings day, January 6th, but this is changing little by little, and some families are already celebrating Santa Claus.
On December 31st, they celebrate the old night, or new years eve. the year is dismissed with family or with friends, but what can not be missing are the twelve grapes, which the Spanish people eat together with the twelve strokes at midnight that mark the end of a year and the beginning of the New Year! Everyone also has to wear Red Knickers on New Years Eve!
The holidays conclude with the day of kings. This is the most anticipated day for children, since they left their letter asking for their gift to the royal page (there are plenty of places for children to bring their letter to the Kings). Also a tradition is the cavalcade of kings, where the streets of the cities in Spain are cut and a route is drawn where the kings pass in their floats, throwing out tons of candy and some other gifts to the children.
On the night of January 5, children leave all kinds of offerings for camels and kings, such as cookies, milk, etc. the magic comes on the morning of the 6th of January, when the children wake up and run to the Christmas tree in search of their gifts and also check that the kings and camels have eaten everything they have left for them!
Merry Christmas to you all from us here in Spain!