Celebrating Christmas in Spain

Hola amigos, Stuart here from Spain
Speaks with another video today it is the 23rd of December and somebody in the
comment section wrote that they would like to know what Christmas is like in
Spain so that’s what I’ll talk about today now the first thing I’m going to
say is that Christmas in Spain is not all that dissimilar to Christmas in
other European countries people love to celebrate Christmas time you see
Christmas trees around you see Christmas lights people give each other gifts and
there is a festive spirit in Spain at this time of year now I’m here in Madrid
I’m in a town about 20 kilometres east of Madrid and that’s what I based the
talk about today regarding Christmas in Spain because Christmas in Spain could
differ if you’re in the north it could differ if you’re in the south it could
differ if you are in one of the many different areas here in Spain but I’ll
talk about the Christmas in Madrid and what I have seen over the years of what
Christmas is in this part of the world now Christmas normally starts to kick in
in Spain around the beginning of December that’s when people start to get
out their Christmas trees it’s when the Christmas markets start to pop up it’s
when the Christmas lights start to be erected in the streets as well it’s also
when the supermarket’s start to put out all of their Christmas sweets all of
their Christmas products and people start to get into Christmas spirit now
at the beginning of December here in Spain there’s also a long weekend on the
6th and 8th of December and that’s when a lot of people travel to different
parts of Spain to see the different Christmas decorations that have been put
up around the place so here in Madrid for example a lot of people from other
regions of Spain come to Madrid to check out the Christmas decorations and all of
the things that are happening in the centre of Madrid and there are quite a
few in the centre and a few of the towns around Madrid now have special Christmas
lights and special Christmas decorations at this time of the year now in this
part of Spain Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December Christmas Eve
that’s when all of the families get together for a big feast they normally
go to their parents house their in-laws
house and people really celebrate the 24th of December that’s the big night
it’s a it’s a big dinner it’s a big feast a lot of people like to get
dressed up they go around to a relative’s house and they can show a
massive feast normally with lamb with pork fish maybe seafood it’s a really
elaborated meal and it’s a really traditional thing the 25th of December
which is the day that we would normally celebrate in Australia that’s when the
families would come together in Australia is more of a low-key event a
lot of people still get together and they have a lunch it can be a leftovers
lunch you know things that were left over from the night before
or you might go to a different family member to celebrate but the 25th seems
to be a little bit less important than the 24th because as I said the 24th is
when people really love to celebrate here now one thing I will say about
Christmas in Spain that it is really really long it starts as I said around
the 23rd 24th of December that’s when people start to take their holidays and
it goes all the way through until the 6th of January there are a few important
things in between as well so for example on 28th of December they have the
Spanish equivalent of April Fool’s Day where people play jokes on each other I
think it’s called Día de Los Santos Inocentes so that’s on the 28th then on
the 31st they celebrate what is known here as Noche Vieja or New Year’s Eve
and that is also a big celebration that’s where families also come together
and a big feast is also had again lots of good food are on display for the 31st
then when that normally finishes when the dinner finishes around 1 or 2
o’clock in the morning people go out people go to a party people go out to a
nightclub people go out somewhere in the city or the town or wherever they’re
living and they kick on until the wee hours of the morning sometimes 6 7 8 9
10 o’clock you’ll see people still celebrating New Year’s Eve and it is a
big event and there is a curious fact as well that our New Year’s Eve when the
clock strikes 12:00 Spanish people consume grapes I think they have 12
grapes 12 grapes 12 grapes is it Dave? for each of the chimes of
the clock counting down to 12 o’clock they eat a grape and that is a
traditional celebration here not sure why it started but it is something that
everybody seems to do at least in this part of the world and that is a popular
tradition and that then leads us into the 6th of January now the 6th of
January here in Spain is one of the most important days of the Christmas period
they call it the three kings day or Reyes three wisemen and it’s
historically the day when a lot of kids received gifts now this is also an
important point because a lot of families now were deciding whether to
give gifts on the 24th maybe they give a few or maybe they give them on the 6th
of January but a lot of kids prefer to get their gifts around the 24th because
they have time to play before they go back to school because remember kids
normally go back to school around the 7th of January or the day after that
three kings day of a three magic kings day and that is also a day when you’re
going to see the Christmas pageants you’re going to see the floats the three
wise men are often on floats and they throw candies or lollies to the kids
that are on the street and it is one of the most important days here now a lot
of people are now complaining that Christmas is too commercial here in
Spain like it is in a lot of other places around the world and people
prefer to hold on to the de more of the traditional Spanish traditions at
Christmas time and that is as I said mainly around the 6th of January when
the gifts are given but of course commercial interests normally went out
and a lot of people are also giving gifts around the 24th so it’s bit of a
double gift time for kids and young people here in Spain so this in case you’re wondering is the
Spanish lottery and it is a huge event this time of the year it’s another
Christmas tradition here in Spain and there’s millions and millions of euros
up for grabs and it’s one of the biggest lotteries in the world for the total
prize pool and Spanish people or a lot of Spanish people I should say go crazy
buying tickets for this thing and it’s a televised event as you can see I’m
watching it here on YouTube but turn on the television and you’ll also see this
on the first channel or the second channel here in Spain it’s a huge event
and it goes for hours I don’t know what time it started but it’s been on for
about three or four hours now and it is massive I don’t participate because it’s
one of these traditions that I can’t get into I don’t normally play the lottery
and I’m not going to spend money at this time of year on this thing either but as
I said a lot of people spend a lot of money on the Christmas lottery just
another one of the traditions here in Spain so if I had one complaint about
Christmas in this country it would be that it is a little bit too long in my
opinion as I said it goes on for a long time starting around the 22nd 23rd of
December when that lottery takes place and it goes all the way through until
the 6th or the 7th of January and then of course people don’t have any money in
January because they’ve spent it all on the christmas period and then we go into
a thing which is called the cuesta de enero which is like the steep hill that people have to go up in January in order to pay
the bills and get things done because as I said they’ve spent all of
their money at Christmas time buying fancy food fancy gifts going on holidays
doing the things that people do and it’s also a time where businesses really shut
down over that Christmas period I’d say that a lot of the businesses here in
Madrid operated about 60% over that Christmas period a lot of people take
holidays and it is difficult to get things done over that Christmas period
so that’s one of the negative things about Christmas in my opinion it’s a
little bit too long but hey it is what it is now another thing I’ll say here is
that Christmas is a little bit more formal
than it is in Australia in Australia because it’s summer obviously people
walk around in shorts and t-shirts summer dresses and it’s a lot more
informal let’s say a lot more casual here people like to dress up Christmas
time 24th not cheap winner as they call it people like to dress up as I said
there’s a big meal normally on display people have gone out of their way to buy
the best food the the best products for Christmas and a lot more formal in that
regard and again New Year’s Eve is a lot more formal here as I said there’s a
dinner involved and people normally go out after that and they like to dress up
as well for New Year’s Eve we’re a news even Australia is basically a party get
drunk and if you’re still around at 12 o’clock fantastic but here it goes all
the way through the night and people like to celebrate in a more formal way
let’s say or at least in my opinion now one thing that is the same here in Spain
as it is in Australia is that last-minute rush to get Christmas gifts
and it’s my turn now to go and buy those last-minute presents so questions or
comments please leave them in the section below if you’ve ever had a
Christmas here in Spain let me know what your impression of it was I’ll see you
in the next video hasta luego feliz navidad and
see you later

About the author


  1. Very informative stuart, your comment at the end explains when I went to gernika a few years back on the 8th January there was no one about and I had a feeling of gloom following me about. Thanks again for the past years videos, I'm off to be one of the queens in the caldereros fiesta in san sebastian early Feb,
    Felice navidad y prospero año nuevo

  2. interesting, we will be traveling down from Bilbao to Torrevieja N Y E/ day, will the service stations be open for fuel?

  3. I have family in Mexico City and I see similarities with how the Christmas season is celebrated. One thing my family has as part of the Christmas Eve dinner is Bacalao which is cod fish. It doesn't seem to be a very Mexican tradition but more of something coming from Spain. Do Spaniards eat something similar? Mexicans in other parts of Mexico don't eat it. It appears to be something more typical of Mexico City and people who have more Spanish descent.

  4. Currently living in Spain.

    I loved this video, I found everything to be very accurate. Since I used to live with a host family, I got kind of an insider's perspective on the Christmas lottery. I found what they said interesting. Most people don't view the Christmas lottery here like any other lottery. It's not gambling, it's tradition.
    It's amazing the lines that you see especially in Sol and the center of thr lottery shops this time of year! I love Christmas, so it doesn't bother me that it's so long. The Spanish Christmas desserts are the best!

    I'm suprised you didn't mention anything about the poop logs in Cataluña.

    Anyways, ¡feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo desde Madrid!

  5. No such thing as Xmas it's Christmas, like Ramadan, it would be very disrespectful to say to Muslims, did you enjoy xdam.
    I find this treatment of people's faith very disrespectful.

  6. Nice video, I’ve been in and around Madrid since early ‘97 and now live out in the sticks close to Siguenza. Fully agree with all the comments, although I think I would have mentioned the sales on the 7th of Jan. Keep up the good work.

  7. Hi Stuart, good analisys! Some notes:
    – The first Christmas national lottery was in 1812 in Cádiz, with Napoleon Army besieging the city, where spanish Parlament diputies from all territories were to create the first spanish Liberal Constitution (La Pepa), and they needed more money to fight against Napoleon.
    – In my experiece, the Navidad lunch and Day of New year lunch are really as important as the dinners before.
    – the importance of Belén: the small recreations of the Sacred Family at homes, streets..
    – The villancicos: popular songs singing by children since XV, but I see this tradition is disappearing in many towns..

  8. Genial el resumen que has hecho de la navidad en españa. Se nota que ya llevas bastantes años por aquí,..jejeje, por un momento pensaba que ibas a olvidar de las uvas,… aquí la explicación:

    La aparición de esta práctica se sitúa en la década de 1880 y aparece en Madrid como una acción satírica y de protesta. Por aquel entonces, la alta burguesía copió la costumbre francesa de hacer fiestas privadas en Navidades en las que se bebía champán y se utilizaban uvas como acompañamiento. Al mismo tiempo, el ayuntamiento de la ciudad prohibió los festejos callejeros que se celebraban normalmente en la Noche de Reyes.

    Los chulapos, a los que se les había arrebatado su divertimento navideño, decidieron aprovechar que aún estaba permitido reunirse en la Puerta del Sol para escuchar las campanadas del reloj en Nochevieja y empezaron a comer uvas (un producto barato para la época) como burla de la costumbre aristócrata y en señal de protesta contra las restricciones del ayuntamiento. Numerosos periódicos de 1882 ya recogen las primeras menciones de esta tradición y en 1884 algunos la califican de “imperecedera costumbre”. Aunque el consumo de las doce uvas mantuvo su carácter incorrecto y burlesco durante años, acabaría por normalizarse y extenderse al resto del país con el paso del tiempo.

    fuente: https://www.muyhistoria.es/curiosidades/preguntas-respuestas/ipor-que-tomamos-doce-uvas-en-nochevieja

  9. Se puede decir que la lotería de Navidad es toda una tradición para los españoles, se compra y luego se reparte e intercambia con familiares y amigos, digamos que para los españoles las Navidad comienza el día 22 de Diciembre escuchando el sonido de los niños de San Ildefonso cantando la lotería de Navidad, con respecto a la cena y comida tradicional al menos en Madrid y las dos Castillas, lo más típico es el asado de cordero y también el de cochinillo. Feliz Navidad a todos!!!🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

  10. Excellent and informative video. I've never spent my Christmas in Spain but I have had a Christmas in Italy which is very similar. Happy Christmas Stuart.

  11. Great topical video Stu. 👍🏼 We’re currently in Elche, near Alicante enjoying the laid back atmosphere during the festive season. So much nicer than the obscenely commercialised nonsense forced down people’s neck back in the U.K.. It’s very subtle and elegantly done over here in Elche which I really appreciate 👌🏼 We even managed to pop into 3 different supermarkets this morning ( which we would 100% avoid doing back in the U.K. ) … there were no massive queues, no screaming kids (or worst still screaming adults), everyone was kind, relaxed and very calm.
    Bravo Espania 👏🏼 Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo.

  12. Sí, en Navidad, , y se me olvidaba mencionar la empanada de bacalao en aperitivos , acompañada con vino tinto o vermouth .
    En Coruña , no hace falta que sea una fecha especial,para comer pescado o marisco ….

  13. Thanks for the insight and tho Xmas is o er her in NZ already, Europe is just starting it for the day… So happy Christmas to you all… It was a good one, so enjoy it. 🎅🎅🎅🎅🤶🤶🤶

  14. I learned something new from this video, not to say I never learn anything from Stuart because I do. I had imagined that a day for jokes in Spain would be celebrated on 1 April, as it is in Portugal. Curiously, just as the Portuguese have no siesta, don't care about bullfights, let all shops stay open on Sunday, and have their dinners around 7:00–and not 9:00–they also don't celebrate Fool's Day in December. Live and learn.

    En todo el territorio nacional de España se celebra el Día de los Santos Inocentes, un día dedicado a las bromas y que desde 1995 finaliza con la Gala Inocente, Inocente, una gala benéfica destinada a recaudar fondos para diferentes organizaciones que se dediquen a tratar los problemas infantiles.

  15. According to a Wikipedia article, "The Twelve Grapes (Sp. Las doce uvas de la suerte, "The twelve grapes of luck") is a Spanish tradition that consists of eating a grape with each clock bell strike at midnight of December 31 to welcome the New Year. This tradition is followed by almost every Spaniard, and the twelve grapes have become synonymous with the New Year.

    The twelve grapes date back from at least 1895 but became established in 1909. In December of that year, some Alicantese vine growers popularized this custom to better sell huge numbers of grapes from an excellent harvest. According to the tradition, eating the twelve grapes leads to a year of good luck and prosperity. In some areas, it is believed that it wards away witches and general evil, although this "magic" is treated like an old heritage, and in modern days it's viewed as a cultural tradition to welcome the new year."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Grapes

  16. Detalles que se te han pasado o quizás no conozcas:

    -Tradicionalmente los preparativos navideños empezaban después del día de la Inmaculada (8 de diciembre)
    -A causa del gasto navideño y la subsecuente "cuesta de enero", en febrero era la época tradicional de rebajas en España (la globalizacion del black friday y portales como Amazon se han cargado la relevancia que tenian antes los periodos de rebajas)
    -Es una de las épocas del año con mayor número de desplazamientos por carretera, dado que los españoles acostumbran a volver a su ciudad natal para celebrar las fiestas con toda la familia
    -Las reuniones familiares implican no solo a padres, hijos y abuelos, tb a tíos, primos… siendo multitudinarias
    -El plato tradicional de Nochebuena es el pavo. Esta tradición viene del siglo XIX. Los indianos (españoles que habían hecho fortuna en América) regresaban trayendo cosas exóticas, una de ellas el pavo (más grande y sabroso que el pollo). Se popularizó tanto que, hasta hace poco, los granjeros montaban pequeños corrales en las plazas (antes de navidad) para venderlos, dando origen a los mercadillos navideños
    -El arbol de navidad no se popularizó en Europa hasta q la reina Victoria puso uno en el palacio de Buckingham, pero a España llegó aun más tarde, en tiempos del rey Alfonso XII, de manos de una princesa rusa.
    – Las cenas navideñas acostumbran a "terminar" con mantecados y licores, cantando villancicos alargando la "sobremesa" hasta bien entrada la madrugada.
    -Cuando se vuelve de la fiesta de Nochevieja, por la mañana, lo tradicional es desayunar chocolate con churros en un bar. Los bares con más fama, pueden tener multitud de gente haciendo cola desde las 6 de la mañana.
    -En todas las casas se pone un Belén, además tb hay numerosos belenes públicos realizados durante meses por asociaciones vecinales, ongs, colegios, ordenes religiosas, iglesias, ayuntamientos, etc… estos belenes públicos participan en concursos convocados por el ayuntamiento. Muchos de ellos además recaudan dinero para fines benéficos. Aunque el primer Belén lo hizo san Francisco de Asis en el siglo XIII, a España no llegó la tradición hasta el siglo XVIII, de manos del rey Carlos III. Quien trajo esta tradición belenista desde Nápoles.
    -Los instrumentos típicos para acompañar los villancicos son la pandereta, la zambomba, el almiréz y la botella de anís con una cuchara.
    -La cena de Nochebuena suele hacerse temprano (para el horario español XD ) ya que después mucha gente va a la "misa del gallo". El servicio religioso que, a las 12 de la noche, celebra el nacimiento de Jesús.
    -En las oficinas de Correos, en los mercadillos y en muchas tiendas hay buzones especiales para que los niños manden cartas a los Reyes Magos explicando que han sido buenos y que regalos les gustaría recibir.
    -Muchas asociaciones organizan visitas de los reyes magos el día de Epifanía a unidades infantiles de hospitales y barrios deprimidos para llevar regalos a los niños.
    -Además del Gordo (lotería del 22 de diciembre) tb está el "Sorteo del Niño", que tiene lugar el día 6 de enero, cuyos premios son un poco más pequeños que en el Gordo pero igualmente muy interesantes.
    -Por supuesto cada región tiene sus particularidades, como el "caga tió" catalán, el "olentzero" vasco (ambas de origen prehistórico), los enharinados de Ibi, etc…

  17. Details that have been missed or you may not know:

    -Traditionally, Christmas preparations began after "Immaculada" Day (December 8)

    -Because of Christmas spending and the subsequent "January cost", in February it was the traditional time of sales in Spain (the globalization of black friday and portals like Amazon have loaded the relevance that it had before)

    -It is one of the times of the year with the highest number of road trips, due to that Spanish people usually return to their hometown to celebrate the holidays with the whole family

    -Family meetings involve not only parents, children and grandparents, also uncles, cousins ​​… being very crowded

    The traditional Christmas Eve (Nochebuena lit. Good Night) dish is turkey. This tradition comes from the 19th century. The "Indianos" (Spaniards who had made their fortunes in America) returned bringing exotic things, one of them turkey (bigger and tastier than chicken). It became so popular that, until recently, farmers mounted small pens in the squares (before Christmas) to sell them, the origin of Christmas markets

    -The Christmas tree was not popularized in Europe until Queen Victoria put one in Buckingham Palace, but it arrived to Spain even later, in the time of King Alfonso XII, from the hands of a Russian princess.

    – Christmas dinners usually "finish" with "mantecados" (shortcakes) and spirits, singing "villancicos" (Christmas carols) lengthening the "sobremesa" (chating and relaxing time afetr eating) for hours.

    -When you return from the New Year's Eve party, in the morning, the traditional thing is to have chocolate breakfast with churros in a bar. The most famous bars, can have many people queuing from 6 in the morning.

    -All houses put a "Belén" (Nativity scene), besides there are numerous public nativity scenes created for months by neighborhood associations, NGOs, schools, religious orders, churches, town halls, etc … these public nativity scenes participate in contests convened by the town hall. Many of them also raise money for charitable purposes. Although the first "Belén" was made by Saint Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century, tradition did not reach Spain until the eighteenth century, from the hands of King Carlos III. Who brought this tradition from Naples.

    -The typical instruments to accompany the carols are the tambourine, the "zambomba", the "almiréz" (bronze mortar) and a bottle of anise with a spoon .

    -The Christmas Eve dinner is usually made early (for the Spanish horaries XD) since later many people go to the "misa del gallo" (mass of the rooster). The religious service that, at 12 pm, celebrates the birth of Jesus.

    -In the post offices, in the markets and in many stores there are special mailboxes for children to send letters to the "Tres Reyes Magos" (Three Wise Men or Magi) explaining that they have been good and what gifts they would like to receive.

    -Many associations organize visits of the Magi on Epiphany Day to children's units of hospitals and porr neighborhoods to bring gifts to children.

    -In addition to the "Gordo" (December 22 lottery) there is also the "Sorteo del Niño" (Lottery of Baby Jesus), which takes place on January 6, whose prizes are a bit smaller than in the Gordo but still very interesting.
    -Of course each region has its peculiarities, such as the Catalan "caga tió", the Basque "olentzero" (both of prehistoric origin), the "enfarinats" (floured people) from Ibi, etc …

  18. I am a foreigner here in Spain. The ambience created here at Christmas never made me feel homesick, of course, I miss my family. Putting aside the extravagance, you can really have a good and happy celebration on a low budget and above all Christmas is a season when family and friends get together with love and that’s what the feast is celebrated for. HAPPY CHRISTMAS to one and all! Have a lovely holiday!

  19. Madrid is crazy busy during Christmas.
    At times in the city centre you'll find it hard to walk. There are people like ants.
    Coming back to Australia is like coming back to a desert in comparison.

  20. Hi there, Have you ever been to Burgos??? It has a really good gastronomic offer and a beautiful cathedral. And it's on the camino de Santiago

  21. I know that El Gordo is a big Christmas tradition but the lotteries here (in Andalucia around Malaga) are big all the year round. It's hard to eat out without at least two ticket sellers coming to your table, there are people on every shopping street hawking lottery tickets as well as little hole in the wall shops that only sell tickets.
    It does seem to go on for a long time but it seems to make it a bit more laid back spreading everything out rather than having an intense few days. And the Spanish i know don't really need much excuse to have a good party!

  22. It is 12 days of Christmas…..starting on the 25th…it ends on the 5th….three kings day eve….it is also the orthodox Christmas….in Greece and Russia the 6 if January is Epiphany day….

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