Spain’s Christmas Time (Navidad) in Spain refers to the period from December 24th to January 6th. Dec. 24th is Christmas Eve (Nochebuena), which is a family celebration in which Spaniards often gather around a table loaded with exquisite delicacies to have dinner together. The annual family affair is a joyful event, where the sumptuous meal and the high spirits carry on until late at night.
Another special day that comes around during Christmas time is Dec. 28th, the “Día de los Santos Inocentes”, a day that originally commemorated the young victims of a massacre ordered by governor of Judea, Herodes. The word inocente in Spanish also means simple or naïve, and this day in Spain is celebrated in much the same way as April Fool’s Day is in other cultures, meaning Dec. 28th is a day to watch out for tricks or “inocentadas” that pranksters are looking to play on people.
While Christmas Eve is a family celebration, New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja) is a time for partying with friends. It is a night for throwing fiestas called “cotillones” or for gathering in town squares under the old clock tower waiting in anxious anticipation for it to strike twelve. According to tradition, observers must wolf down 12 grapes at this time to guarantee good fortune for the New Year. Afterward, excited revelers often offer toasts to the New Year with glasses of cava.
On Jan. 5th, many make their way to their favorite bakeries to order a Roscón de Reyes, a ring shaped cake eaten on Jan. 6th. That day, the main focus here is on the kids, as parades roll through town in which the Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men) and their pages shower candy over delighted children. After all the high emotions, nervous kids will have a tough time falling asleep that night, particularly because the following morning is the feast day of the epiphany, when the three kings will traditionally arrive from the east to leave gifts for the well-behaved.
HOLY WEEK (SEMANA SANTA)
Semana Santa traditions in Spain are vibrant celebrations, with religious origins, that take place during the days leading up to Easter Sunday. It is a time when emotion-stirring processions make their way through cities and towns across Spain. Semana Santa festivities vary by region, each displaying their own special flavor; those of the Andalusia region are particularly famous for their powerfully charged mood. What they all have in common is a passionate observance of tradition that attracts the devout and the curious each year, who gather on streets and squares to experience the intense ambience produced by music bands and float bearers featured in the processions.
Many procession participants are members of brotherhoods. Art and religion seem merged into one with sculptures of images created by superb craftsmen. The best ones date back to the 16th and 17th centuries and can still be seen today.
Even if you are not religious, it is difficult not to be moved, the atmosphere is so vital and poignant. For some it is a fun filled fiesta time, for others a week of ritual and reflection. Without a doubt, Holy Week is a tradition that is an integral part of the culture and appropriately reflects the spirit of the people.
Year after year, each and every village proudly enjoys the beauty and mystery of “Semana Santa” although there are variances and some towns for instance, will preserve certain traditions more than others. The villages and hamlets generally hold their parades on Thursdays and Fridays, while the large capital cities have weeklong celebrations and attract thousands of people from far and wide.