To say 'Merry Christmas' you say 'Feliz Navidad.'
Father Christmas is Papá Noel.
The first celebration of Christmas is on 8 December. This is called El Día de la Inmaculada and it is a celebration in honour of The Virgin Mary. There are processions with music and singing. It is a national holiday.
La Inmaculada is the patron saint of the city of Sevilla, so there are many important events taking place in that city
on 8 December.
For example, children dance around the statue of La Inmaculada in the square called La Plaza del Triunfo.
This special dance is called La Danza de los Seises.
Above is a painting of La Inmaculada by the Spanish artist, Murillo. He was born in Sevilla in 1617 and he died in Sevilla in 1682. This painting is kept at El Museo del Prado in Madrid.
From around the 8 December, in the Catalan area of Spain, families place a special Christmas log in a prominent position in the house. Nowadays, the log has a painted face and stands on legs! It is called El Tió de Nadal.
The log is kept covered with a red cloth and is looked after like a pet until Christmas Day. Children make sure that he is kept warmly covered and pretend to feed him every day, just like feeding a doll.
Then, on Christmas Day, children have fun hitting the log with a stick whilst singing a traditional song.
Why do they hit the log?
Well, to make it produce little gifts!
After singing the song and hitting the log with a stick, they put their hands under the cover to see if the log has produced anything. (When children aren't looking, grown-ups place the gifts under the cover!)
Children keep singing songs and hitting the log to have more goodies. Eventually, when they can only find something like an onion or garlic, it means that the gifts have run out and the game is over!
Below is an old drawing from the 19th. Century, showing a family hitting the log with a stick on Christmas Day.
Why does this tradition exist?
In the past, the idea of hitting the log to make it produce gifts was believed to bring good luck for the harvests during the next year.
If you want to buy one of these cute logs, then go to the famous Christmas market of Barcelona. This market is called El Mercado de Santa Lucía.
To view our Christmas log photo gallery, click HERE.
(Please note that in Catalan el tió means 'the log'. In standard Castilian Spanish el tío means 'the uncle.' The accent is written over different letters. These two words, although they look and sound similar, are totally unrelated.)
During the Christmas period, most Spanish houses will have un portal de Belén (a Christmas Nativity Scene). You can just say belén for short.
The belén can be very beautiful and elaborate. It is a model of the stable with La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus), los pastores (the shepherds) Los Reyes Magos (The Three Kings) and los animales (the animals).
Very often, Spanish children will sing Christmas carols (villancicos) whilst admiring el belén.
On the 22 December there is a very famous Spanish Christmas lottery and it is nicknamed El Gordo (the fat one) because of the enormous size of the prizes. The prizes are very large sums of money and most Spanish people buy tickets.
(An image of a Spanish Christmas Lottery ticket. This was not a winning ticket! Wikimedia Commons.)
On 24 December, the King of Spain (Juan Carlos I)
makes a traditional Christmas Eve speech. This speech is called El Discurso Nacional De Su Majestad El Rey and it is shown on all the Spanish television channels.
The night of Christmas Eve is very important in Spain. It is called Nochebuena (the good night).
Families eat a special meal on the night of 24 December. This meal is called La Cena de Nochebuena.
There are many foods prepared for this meal.
Lamb (el cordero), seafood (mariscos), fish (el pescado), lobster (la langosta), pork (el cerdo) and turkey (el pavo) are a popular choice.
Traditional Spanish ham is very popular at Christmas. Many families buy a full leg of the raw, dried ham. It is very expensive and is for special occasions.
It is known as el jamón serrano. Another variety is el jamón ibérico. The ham is sliced very thinly and eaten as an appetiser (una tapa) with bread (el pan).
A sweet nougat called el turrón, an almond pastry called un polvorón, marzipan (el mazapán), shortbread (el mantecado) and sparkling Cava wine are also popular.
Nuts (nueces), mandarins (mandarinas) and dates (dátiles) are always part of Spanish Christmas food.
Above: un polvorón in halves.
Above: churros con chocolate:- a chocolate drink and long, thin fritters to dunk. It is a popular snack at Christmas time.
This plate of churros was served in La Chocolatería San Ginés de Madrid.
(Wikimedia Creative Commons License. Author: Barcex. )
On the night of Christmas Eve, many people attend Midnight Mass (La Misa del Gallo).
In Spain, Christmas Eve is a night for parties!
There is a Spanish saying:-
Esta noche es Nochebuena y no es noche de dormir.
(Tonight is Christmas Eve and it's not a night for sleeping.)
¡Vamos a la fiesta!
Christmas Day (El Día de Navidad) is another special day for the family with an afternoon dinner similar to the one that took place on the previous night.
On Christmas Day, many Spanish children receive some little gifts from Papá Noel (Father Christmas), even though they receive their main gifts from The Three Kings (Los Reyes Magos) on 6 January! Lucky Spanish children!
In Spain, the 28 December is similar to April Fools' Day because people play tricks on one another. This day is called
El Día de los Santos Inocentes.
It is a day to remember all the babies and young children of Bethlehem who were killed by King Herod's soldiers at the time of the birth of the Baby Jesus.
The Baby Jesus is El Niño Jesús.
King Herod is el rey Herodes.
In a town called Ibi, in the area of Alicante, on 28 December, it is the tradition for people to throw flour at each other! Everyone becomes completely white! This fun tradition is called 'Els Enfarinats.'
The word for flour is la harina.
The 6 January is the most important day of Christmas in Spain. This is known as The Day of The Kings (El Día de Reyes). This is the day when children receive most presents. The Three Kings arrive during the night of 5 January and leave presents for the children.
Children write letters to Los Reyes Magos, mentioning the gifts that they would like to receive. On the night of 5 January, they place their shoes (zapatos) under the Christmas tree or in another area where the Kings will find them. In the morning, children hope to find their shoes filled with treats and surrounded by presents!
Children also leave out plates of food for the Kings
and bowls of water for the Kings' camels!
In Spanish towns there are processions on the 5 January. The special procession is called la cabalgata de Reyes. It celebrates the journey of the Three Kings as they followed the star to find the Baby Jesus, carrying their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In Spanish, these gifts are called oro, incienso y mirra.
During the processions, sweets are thrown into the crowd from the passing floats.
Above: The Three Kings giving presents to Spanish children in a shopping centre.
On 5 January, a special cake is prepared all over Spain.
It is called el roscón de Reyes. It is a ring-shape and is covered in coloured sweets and jellies. The colourful decoration represents the sparkling jewels worn by The Three Kings, (Los Reyes Magos).
Inside the cake, there is a lucky charm. The belief is that if you find the charm in your cake, it will bring you good luck for the new year.
Some more Christmas words in Spanish are -
María y José (Mary and Joseph)
El Niño Jesús (the baby Jesus)
el ángel (the angel)
el burro (the donkey)
la estrella de Belén (the star of Bethlehem)
el pastor (the shepherd)
el pesebre (the manger)
el portal de Belén (the nativity scene)
el villancico (the Christmas carol)