Wednesday, 20th March 2019
COVER FEATURE | SOCIAL LIFE Article
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This Month's Magazine
Christmas & New Year on the Costa del Sol

Christmas & New Year on the Costa del Sol

I think that this year many will spend Christmas & New Year in Spain

Unfortunately there is so much trouble everywhere else that staying in Spain and celebrating the festivities right here in Spain is probably the best bet, however much the airlines are reducing their prices.

Although the 25th is more of a family and religious celebration, the Spanish traditionally celebrate their “gift giving” on the 6th of January, when, according to belief, the Three Kings arrived at the grotto, following the Star.

New Year is another story when traditionally the first minute of the New Year is welcomed with the eating of 12 grapes, one for each stroke of the clock from midnight.
Christmas in Spain can be quite a treat because nowadays Xmas is also celebrated on the 25th and the feast does not end until the 6th January. The giant multi-billion
euro lottery, splendid nativity scenes, lots of great food and loads of good food and meals certainly make their mark during this season.

Some may say that you need snow at Christmas, although the Costa is mild by comparison, it can get quite cold and you do not have far to go inland to find the snow
with the result that different traditions have developed in different parts of Spain.

For instance, December 21st, the shortest day of the year, is celebrated in Granada and nearby Jaen by jumping through bonfires for the fiesta de Las Hogueras. We are taught that children shouldn’t play with fire, however in these parts it is said to keep illness away.

On December 22nd, El Gordo, the massive Spanish lottery, is drawn, everybody plays it and they start selling it in August!

Christmas Eve is the most important part of Christmas in Spain and the dinner that day is the biggest meal of the year, but there is nothing as ubiquitous as turkey.  Most bars will be closed on Christmas day and there won’t be many restaurants open. It is when families unite as a follow on of the 24th.

The only rule is that people eat well. Lobster is very common, and a roast of some sort is essential, usually lamb or suckling pig. In addition to all this, most families will also have fish soup and an abundance of other seafood, cheeses, hams and pates. Dinner starts late, at about 10pm and will go on for a couple of hours.

Proceedings are interrupted at midnight by the chimes of the local church, calling worshipers to the misa del gallo’ (Mass of the Rooster), so called because it is said that a rooster crowded on the night Jesus was born.

The most relevant ‘misa del gallo’ takes place at the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat near Barcelona.

Although some exchange of gifts is done on Christmas Eve, children will often get a little something, but they really have to wait until January. Couples will normally spend Christmas Eve with one set of parents and Christmas Day with the other. By the evening of the 25th, most shops and bars are open again and these days more and more youths have started going out on the town.


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Did you know that you can celebrate New Year as many as six times in Spain?

  1. The first New Year’s Eve in Spain usually comes in on the second Thursday before Christmas. It is the Noche Vieja Universitaria (University New Year), which takes place in Salamanca. The University New Year is for students of the famous university who are unable to celebrate the normal New Year with their friends because of family commitments.
  2. Next up is midday (not midnight) on December 30, at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, for the bell-ringing rehearsal. Again, this is done for those who can’t attend the real celebration because of prior commitments or for those who can’t handle the idea of all the crowds that will congregate on the actual day (Puerta del Sol is as busy as Times Square or Leicester Square on New Year’s Eve).
  3. Later, on the same day is the Alternative Bell-Ringing for Geeks which takes place at Plaza de Castilla, in front of the Pac-Man tree they set up there! The Spanish
    ‘friki’ (geek or nerd) subculture is quite big.
  4. Also on December 30, at 8pm, the town of Lepe celebrates New Year’s Eve early (and they celebrate it again the following day too!).
  5. Then, of course, comes the real New Year’s Eve on December 31. You may be surprised that, for a country famous for its drinking, that most bars will be closed on the stroke of midnight. This is because most people will be busy eating the 12 grapes for luck. However, the city’s main square will certainly give you that communal New Year’s feeling. Then, the parties are later.
  6. Lastly, there is New Year’s Eve in August, which takes place in the tiny village of Berchules on the first Saturday of the month. Why? Because a power cuts in the mid-nineties meant that New Year’s Eve had to be cancelled, so they rescheduled the big event for August. The re-run was such a success that they have run this second New Year ever since!

Whatever you do, don’t forget your grapes... good luck! 



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