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Christmas

Christmas 2017 and 2018

Spain’s celebration of Christmas is steeped in unique customs and traditions, and the Christmas festivities begin earlier than in other countries.

YearDateDayHolidayAutonomous Communities
201725 DecMonChristmas Day National
201825 DecTueChristmas Day National
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The Christmas season begins on 8 December with the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This day is celebrated with a ceremony in front of the cathedral in Seville, and a special dance is performed, known as “Los Seises,” or the “Dance of Six.”

On Hogueras, 21 December, Spaniards jump over a fire to gain protection from winter illness. Then, each year, a lottery called “El Gordo” is drawn on 22 December. Translated as “The Big One,” this is a tradition that logs five hours on television, while people watch for the winning numbers.

Those not near a TV are riveted to the radio. People in offices, factories, and bars put their activities on hold until the drawing ends. Numbers are announced in song. The National Christmas Lottery affects many lives, as multiple prizes are awarded. Numerous tickets with the same numbers are issued, resulting in various first and second prize winners. There are plentiful smaller prizes as well. The Christmas lottery originated in 1763, under the rule of King Carlos III.

On Christmas Eve or “Nochebuena,” homes are lit up with tiny lamps as the stars begin to twinkle. People gather at home for an elaborate feast. The Nochebuena is the largest meal of the year.

Church bells chime at midnight, summoning worshipers to the “Misa del Gallo,” or Mass of the Rooster. The mass has this name in reference to the legend that a rooster crowed on the night of Jesus’ birth.

A manger or “nacimiento” has a place of honuor in most Spaniards’ homes. A cow is typically featured among the carved figures. It is believed that the cow in the stable where Jesus was born breathed on the baby to keep Him warm. People gather around the nativity and sing Christmas carols, called “villancicos.”

Christmas Day is rather quiet in comparison to Christmas Eve. People joyfully attend church. Some gifts are exchanged, but mostly it’s a time for families to gather and spend time together. Many people play on swing sets assembled for the occasion. Swinging is done to encourage the sun to “swing” higher in the sky during the time of the winter solstice.