Christmas in Spain

So what’s it like spending Christmas in Spain?        

Why don’t you come and see for yourself?
Instead of coming to Spain in summer, come at Christmas.

Yeah, I know, Christmas is all about children, family get togethers and sharing with good friends, right!

Okay, I’ve got an idea for you, spend Xmas at home with the family and come out to Spain for the New Year! Make sure you get out here around the 2nd or 3rd of January and stay for a week, at least.

In Spain the traditional day for celebrating is not the 25th of December, although since I have been living here Christmas has become more commercial. To be honest my kids have always been lucky in the respect of getting presents both at Christmas and ‘Los Reyes’. That’s our choice because my eldest spent his first 4 years in England at Christmas and I’m a sucker for seeing the smiles on their faces 🙂

 

The 3 Kings / Reyes Magos

The 3 Kings / Reyes Magos

So, what or who  are ‘Los Reyes’? 

Los Reyes are the Three Kings. Baltasar, Melchor and Gaspar.

On the night of January 5th, the Three Kings come into each and every home and leave presents for the children, you know just like Father Christmas but they don’t come down the chimney!:

Earlier on in the evening in nearly every city, town and village there will be a procession and a parade of floats where children throw sweets and each of the Kings are sat on an elaborately decorated float, pulled either by tractor, horses or camels. They throw presents and sweets out to the crowds. Children and adults bring plastic bags and some even take umbrellas and hold them upside down to catch the sweets.

After the processions have passed families go to the bars for tapas and a drink, here in Jerez mostly for a Sherry.

In my house, from a very early age the kids were taught, the tradition of cleaning a pair of shoes and leaving them out so the Kings will know what presents belong to whom. This tradition has been passed down the generations of my wife’s family. I also have to clean a pair of shoes and just like the kids if I haven’t been good the Kings will only leave me a lump of coal. It hasn’t happened yet though 🙂

May be because we always leave a glass of something nice for each king!

 

Going back to Christmas, a couple of things that I really, really enjoy are Zambombas y Pestiños!

ZambombasWhat’s a Zambomba? A Zambomba is a Christmas gathering of people who form the shape of a circle,  normally its family, neighbours and friends but typically are held in public places and everyone’s invited! It consists of  songs and typical flamenco Christmas carols. Its name comes from the instrument called the zambomba, which marks the beat. Zambomba’s are mainly in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) where it is said to have originated, but over time they have spread to other Andalusian towns.

Here’ a short video.

What are Pestiños? Ah…Pestiños
They are basically indescribably delicious flaky and delicate pastries covered in honey. Our friend Mari-Jose makes the best in the whole of Jerez in my opinion. My mouths watering and I can’t wait for Christmas to come quick enough.  The  ingredients are flour, anise seeds or flavouring, white wine (vino fino) and oil. Here’s the recipe but they won’t taste the same!

Pestiños

Last but not least is that unlike most countries I know, the main meal is not served on Christmas day but on the evening
of the 24th. It’s usually a big affair with many courses and a wide variety of different food. Though, normally not turkey the main dishes are preceded by a selection soups, seafood, cheeses, pates and delicious serrano hams.

For the Spanish, food and drink has and always will be close to their hearts. At Christmas time you can eat many delicious specialities to celebrate the festive season. Main dishes vary from province to province and from home to home but Lobster, Roast lamb, Baby Suckling Pig or Cod could all be on the menu.

For dessert there may be trifle or fruit but mostly the Spanish Christmas is not Christmas without Turron, Mazapan, Polvorones or Rosquillos de Vino.

Turronthe essential Christmas sweet in Spain, this is nougat and there are many soft or hard varieties with every table having a selection

Mazapanmarzipan, either plain or shaped

Polvorones traditionally made at home, these small cakes are made from basic ingredients with a selection of flavours added

Rosquillos de vino – small biscuits flavoured with anise and sometimes wine.

And finally………… To DRINK…

Sherry - Amontillado

Sherry – Amontillado

Drinks certainly do not take second stage and Spanish red and white wines will be in plentiful supply. Perhaps a sherry and then some Cava (which is similar to Champagne) and then on to the hard stuff, perhaps a nice Brandy. I think you get the idea…

Where ever you spend Christmas this year, I wish you all a very HAPPY & PEACEFUL one indeed.

Paul Signature

PS. There is also a BIG lottery held on the 22nd of December. Its oficial name is Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad but nearly everyone in Spain know it as ‘EL GORDO’ (the FAT one!).