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How we celebrate Christmas in Spain...and some regional differences

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This past weekend was Constitution day (Dec 6) and the Inmaculate Conception (Dec 8), two public holidays that mark the beginning of the Xmas season in Spain. People decorate the tree and set the creche (Belén, as it´s known in Spain), present in most Spanish homes. In the Basque Country, my homeland, next Dec21 is Saint Thomas, the biggest rural market of the year and a big party, and also the day for the "company dinners". That is, the day many companies celebrate the "fraternity" dinner with all the employees. On Dec 24 we, of course, celebrate Christmas Eve. Dinner normally starts around 10pm and lasts for hours. Dec25 has never been the day for presents, but in the past three decades the visit of Papa Noel (Santa in the US) in many Spanish homes is well received.

In the BAsque Country it´s the Olentzero, a coalmaker that comes down to town from the mountains, to give his presents to the children.

In Catalonia the biggest day for celebration is St Stephen, on Dec 26, more important than Xmas in most homes. Presents come on Chrismas day from the Caga Tió, a log that, literally, sh**s (defecates) the presents. Kids have to "feed" the log during the days previous to Xmas so he can s**t more and more presents. A very popular icon is the Caganer, an image of a popular public figure...shi**ng.

New year´s Eve is celebrated with a family meeting, traditionally. At 1200 we eat 12 grapes, accompanying the 12 gongs indicating the start of the new year. By one o´clock people flock to the streets to celebrate, until early morning.

We celebrate New Year´s Day also, with a family meal...although young people are normally allowed to stay in bed (they may have arrived at ten in the morning from partying).

The BIG day for presents is Jan 6. On Jan 5 the Three Magic Kings visit all towns in Spain, holding big parades and throwing sweet to the expectant children. Jan 6 in the morning is the day where everyone gets their presents and we also celebrate a family meal. In many homes there are now two days for presents...as it´s the case in the Basque Country, for example: Olentzero on Dec 25 and The Three Kings on Jan 6.

The Xmas tree is de-decorated on the evening of Jan 6, kids return to school the day after and January sales season starts...

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