The Spanish Christmas celebrations vary slightly from the festivites in the UK or USA. Celebrations in Spain generally begin around 5th December and continue right through to the end of 6th January.
Here is my guide to what´s happening in Granada this festive season.
If you are visiting another area of Spain the basic outline will probably be quite similar to this one. At the foot of this post is a quick guide to Spanish Christmas words you´ll hear constantly over the next month.
Christmas in Granada
- First Week in December the Christmas lights and decorations around the city are lit up. Using Energy Saving lightbulbs they will be on until 7th Jan 2020.
Granada Christmas Lights
This year Granada will switch on its Christmas Lights on Friday 29th November 2019. A little earlier than usual the Switch on will take place on Bib Rambla Square. From 6.45pm you can see the lights be turned on.
At 8.30pm in Plaza del Humilladero the Cervezas Alhambra Christmas tree will be lit on the 29th November too. This will also be accompanied with some fireworks.
Each day the lights will be on from 6.30pm until the 7th January 2020
Christmas Dates in Spain
- 3rd to 9th December catch a Granada Christmas Flamenco show. Buy tickets at the Theatre Isabel la Catolica in Puerta Real.
- 6th December from then onwards you can find Granada Christmas markets in central squares such as Bib Rambla, Puerta Real and other areas dotted around the city. They sell typical sweets, nativity scenes, local crafts and jewellery.
- 6th December until 5th January The most typical thing for a Granada Christmas is taking a walk around the Nativity Scenes in Granada in Spanish it´s called the Ruta de Belenes. You can see lots of them all around the city. My post explaining more about them is here: Nativity Scenes in Granada
- Friday 20th December Every year on the Last Friday before Christmas, there is a Nighttime fun run. Snaking along through the city streets of Granada, runners wear costumes. The race begins around 8.30pm. Many roads are closed to traffic. Bus routes are affected too on that evening for around 3 hours.
- 24th December The Cartero Real can be seen from Christmas Eve until 4th of January at Granada Town Hall. This is the important person that passes the children´s Christmas letters to the three kings (similar to Santa´s Elves) El Corte ingles also has a Cartero real outside the store from Mid December until 4th or 5th January.
- On Christmas Eve Spanish families have a special dinner together at home.
- 26th December Every year at the Virgen de las Angustias church (close to El Corte Ingles) they hold a special service. This service at 11.45 am is a blessing to thank the Patron of Granada, the Virgen de las Angustias for her protection against earthquakes in Granada.
Spanish New Year
- 31st December New Years´Eve It is typical to eat 12 grapes at midnight at Granada town hall. The city puts on a firework or laser show at midnight in Plaza del Carmen. It is usually quite busy. If you go along make sure you wrap up warm. After the New Year has been welcomed in the bars nearby open, usually it will be around 1.30 am.
- The locals eat with their family and celebrates the chimes at midnight at home. Afterwards they meet their friends to have a drink or party through the night. If you want to eat out on 31st December book ahead. Some set menus are quite extravagant on the final day of the year. Look around at what´s on offer a ahead of time and book something you are happy with.
- At Sierra Nevada ski resort there is a great atmosphere at New Year. Pradallano usually has plenty going on. More info about skiing: https://www.piccavey.com/ski-granada-sierra-nevada/
- 1st January is a national holiday in Spain. Take note if you need to get bread, milk etc. Also hardly any restaurants are open on that day. You may find a few open in the evening.
Dia de la Toma
- 2nd January The second of January is a local holiday in Granada. For some, a controversial event. This day is called El dia de la Toma. Granada commemorates the handing over of the city to the monarchs Isabel and Ferdinand, after the surrender of Boabdil. There is a religious celebration at the Capilla Real, resting place of the Catholic Monarchs. Afterwards at Granada Town Hall another part of the celebration takes place. A councillor waves a banner or flag three times while the phrase is called out “Spain, Castille, Granada, for the illustrious Kings, Doña Isabella and Don Ferdinand” (these are usually around 11h to noon, roads in city centre are closed in the morning)
Epiphany in Spain
- 5th January The 3 Kings arrive to Granada and parade through the streets. The route in Granada usually leaves San Juan de Dios around 5.30pm) and winds along the whole of Gran Via. See details below. The Cabalgata of course is popular with Children and adults alike. As the parade goes by they throw sweets (last year over 10,000kgs of them) out to the crowds. If you intend to fill your pockets with sweets, beware of people next to you with umbrellas and stepladders ; ) as they may have the upper hand.
- The route is Gran Capitan, San Juan de Dios, Gran Vía de Colón, down along Reyes Católicos past the Town Hall, along to Puerta Real then down to Acera del Darro and onto Carrera de la Virgen. The parade moves onto Plaza del Campillo along Angel Ganivet and concludes on Reyes Católicos.
- At the end of the Cabalgata at Plaza del Carmen the Spritely figure of Duende Fermin will address the Children and some fireworks are set off from the Town Hall building.
- Shops are open until midnight on 5th January for last minute purchases. This adds to the hustle and bustle. I love the atmosphere and often buy a Roscon de Reyes after seeing the parade so I can have cake for breakfast on the 6th January.
- 6th January As soon as you wake up open your pressies. The three Kings will have left you gifts during the night of course. Althought you may have been left sweet black coal if you were naughty this year.
- At lunchtime have food fit for a King followed by the typical dessert, Roscon de Reyes. This is one of my favourite festival foods of the whole of the Spanish calendar.
Roscon de Reyes
- A light brioche style mix baked into a ring shape. Covered with candided fruit and sugar. It can be white cream (nata) or yellow cream. Creme patissiere (crema). Other variations are truffle or chocolate flavoured fillings. What you need to watch out for is the Spanish answer to the sixpence or threepenny bit in the Christmas pud. Here they have La haba.
- A dried broad bean carefully hidden inside the Roscon. If you get this in your portion you´ll have to pay for the whole cake. So there is a King inside the cake too. Whoever gets the King in their slice of cake wears the Gold Crown. Some families request more than one King in the cake. This way they avoid squabbles at the table..
¨Si es el haba lo encontrado este postre pagarás más si ello es la figura coronado y Rey serás¨
- 7th January Things get back to normal again. The January sales begin on the 7th January in stores. Find out more about Shopping in Spain here
Spanish Christmas words
- Zambomba – a typical instrument made from a flower pot and skin that only comes out at Christmastime
- Pandareta – Tambourine, very often used to sing Spanish Christmas carols
- Portal de Belen o belen – Nativity scenes
- Pessebre – Manger or crib, part of the Nativity scene
- Villancico – Christmas Carol
- Polverones y mantecados – Typical Christmas sweets. Mantecados made from lard (manteca) They are also made from ground almonds. Warning make sure you have a drink of some sort nearby. Polvorones can be powdery and can be dry.
- Nochebuena – Christmas Eve
- Nochevieja – New Year´s Eve
- Campanadas – Chimes of bell, refers to 12 chimes at midnight on New Years Eve
- Cabalgata – The 3 kings parade held on 5th January.
Is there something typical or unusual happening in your area at Christmastime or New year?
Let me know in the comments below.
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