Feliz Navidad – Merry Christmas
Celebrating Christmas in Spain is definitely something different to what you’re probably used to. Firstly, it’s strange to celebrate Christmas in a country that’s still relatively warm, or at least the chances of snowing are very low.
Also some of the Christmas traditions in Spain could be considered rather strange but definitely fun and interesting. Continue reading to learn about some interesting Spanish traditions at Christmas time, what they eat and when they celebrate.
But first, let’s take a look at some useful Spanish Christmas vocabulary if you are lucky enough to be spending Christmas in Spain or among Spanish people.
Spanish Christmas Vocabulary
- Feliz Navidad – Merry Christmas.
- Felices Fiestas — Happy Holidays
- Misa del Gallo — Midnight Mass
- Día de los Santos Inocentes — Day of the Holy Innocents
- Navidad – Christmas.
- El día de Navidad – Christmas Day.
- Nochebuena – Christmas Eve.
- El árbol de Navidad – Christmas Tree.
- Regalo — Present
- Nacimiento — Nativity scene
- Villancico — Christmas carol
- Espíritu navideño — Christmas spirit
- Trineo — Sleigh
- La tarjeta de Navidad – Christmas Card.
- El suéter de Navidad – Christmas Jumper.
- El regalo de Navidad – Christmas Present.
Important characters or people
- Niño Jesús — Baby Jesus
- Virgen María y José — Virgin Mary and Joseph.
- Reyes Magos — The three kings
- Papá Noel — Father Christmas.
- Hombre de nieve — Snowman
- Renos — Reindeer
- Adornos — Decorations/ornaments
- Espumillón — Tinsel
- Muérdago — Mistletoe
Acebo — Holly
Corona de Navidad — Christmas wreath
- Calcetín — Stocking
- Luces navideñas — Christmas lights
Now you’ve learnt some useful Spanish Christmas vocabulary, what better way to continue than to learn about how the Spanish celebrate Christmas.
When do the Spanish celebrate Christmas?
Although some form of celebrations on the 25th are becoming more common, the main day for Spanish people to celebrate Christmas is the 6th January. This is the day that Spanish families gather to swap presents.
The logic behind this is that the 6th January was the day the three wise men came to visit the baby Jesus with gifts. Therefore it makes the most sense that this is the day when children are given presents and you swap gifts with your family.
Although this is the main gift giving day, the Spanish also have other celebrations that take place during December. The 8th December usually marks the beginning of the Christmas period and this is when you’ll see the majority of Christmas decorations going up in people’s homes and in shopping centres.
This is because the 8th December is believed to have been the day of the immaculate conception. Of course, there are some who choose to start earlier than this, but that’s always the case.
On the 24th December, families will also cook and eat a special meal together before heading to mass, and they will also spend Christmas day together as well.
Who brings Christmas presents in Spain?
Rather than Santa Claus bringing gifts to Spanish children, it is the three kings (who we know as the wise men). They bring presents to Spanish children just like they did to the baby Jesus.
What do the Spanish eat at Christmas?
- Roscón de Reyes – a cream filled cake
- Entremeses – appetiser plate
- Galets soup
- Cochinillo Asado – suckling pig
Spanish Christmas Traditions
Día de los Santos Inocentes
Día de los Santos Innocentes translates to day of the innocent saints, and this is the Spanish equivalent of April Fools day. It takes place on the 28th December, and people spend the day playing small jokes and pranks on each other.
La Misa Del Gallo
La Misa del Gallo literally translates to the Rooster’s mass but it is essentially a midnight mass. Because Spain is still a predominantly Catholic country, just like other Catholic countries, midnight mass plays a very important part of their Christmas celebrations.
This occurs on the night of the 24th, and the Spanish families usually gather together to eat a special meal beforehand.
This is my favourite Spanish tradition by a mile, but unfortunately they only celebrate it in the Catalan region. Caga Tió is otherwise known as the pooping log, and he is a log that children decorate on the run up to Christmas, then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day they all gather around the log and hit it with sticks asking it to poop out sweets.
This is a Spanish Christmas tradition that I would definitely consider bringing to my own country because it’s so fun and Caga Tió is really cute.
El Gordo is an enormous Christmas lottery draw in Spain that takes place every year on the 22nd December and has been going since way back in 1812. This lottery draw is the most popular draw that takes place in Spain and the winning numbers are even announced by singing school children.
Beléns are what you’ll probably know better as Nativity scenes. However, they’re not like the Nativity scenes that you’re probably used to. In other countries, it’s very common to have a small nativity scene in your home with the people who were present at the birth of Jesus and a small stable set up.
However, in Spain it is so much more than this; Beléns are definitely a big deal. They can be absolutely enormous and incredibly elaborate. Often the Nativity scene won’t end with the stable and the central characters, but will instead include who town scenes, sometimes even including rivers and more.
If you manage to visit Spain at some point during the Christmas period, then looking at for some Beléns is definitely something you should do. And if you want to try and recreate one when you go home then even better.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to say Merry Christmas in Spanish, learning some useful Spanish Christmas vocabulary and learning all about how the Spanish celebrate Christmas, including some pretty unusual traditions.
If you’re lucky enough to spend Christmas in Spain, or if you’ve ever spent Christmas there or with Spanish people then please let us know all about your experiences. We always want to hear about what you’ve been up to and your take on things. Maybe you’ve encountered different Spanish traditions that you want to share with us. If that’s the case, then please let us know in the comments below.
If you’re interested in learning other ways to say Merry Christmas, then have a look here.
We hope you enjoy the holiday season and have a fantastic Christmas.