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Heterogeneous Xmas in Spain

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This topic has already been posted in the past, but for those that are coming to Spain during Christmas season, some info about our traditions may be interesting.

Xmas dinner begins at around 1030pm or even later and lasts until late. Ours is a Catholic tradition (although the number of believers is really low), and so we sing Christmas carols during dinner in most families. Food varies from region to region and it´s local specialties, and nobody could say "this is the typical Spanish dinner". Ibérico ham is in most tables, though, as well as Cava (champagne, locally produced, of top quality) and wine.

Traditionally, presents are brought by the Three Magic Kings on Jan 6, but the influence of other traditions has pushed a good number of families to get presents also on Dec 25. Santa Claus does not exist over here. Depending on the region, it´s a different character. In the Basque Country, it´s the Olentzero (google for images), a coalmaker that lives in the woods. In other parts of Spain, it´s Papá Noel (aka Santa) or Child Jesus who bring the presents. There´s a creche in almost every house (a Belén, we say), and in all towns there are exhibitions of creches made by locals, beautifully crafted. Xmas Eve and Xmas day are equally celebrated with a big meal, tradition is that one is "your mum´s house" and the other in your spouse´s mum´s house. A big family gathering. In Cataluña the big day is not the 25 but the 26, St Stephen, and they always have a representation of a famous person shi....ing, called the "caganet" (google), that sh..s a magic log that "produces" the presents.

31st night is also celebrated with a big family gathering and a dinner, although more and more people tend to celebrate it with friends. We go out partying until early morning...but we have a New Year big lunch too!!. And the BIG night for kids is the night of the parade of the Three Magic Kings, when the Spanish streets receive huge parades with the carriers of presents for everyone. Of course, on Jan 6 there´s a big family gathering and a huge lunch...Kids don´t return to school until Jan 7, and most workers.

And for the pre-Xmas season, on Dec 21 we celebrate in the BAsque Country the Santo Tomás market, in Bilbao and San Sebastian, where thousands of people attend a market with local specialties (cheese, txakoli wine, honey, vegetables, chickens,...etc). A big day for celebrating.

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