Presents and Christmas traditions in Spain
If you’re coming to Spain this Christmas, you will of course receive requests from your friends and family to bring them back a typical Christmas gift from this country. The variety is immense in Spain, like in any other country, thus as always we would like to give you a helping hand so here is a small guide and all the articles and products that are on sale during this festive season.
One of the long-awaited dates in Spain is the 22nd of December, the day that they celebrate the Christmas lottery or the Gordo meaning “the Fat One” as it is more familiarly known by the Spanish. This lottery was started around 1812 and since then has gained an increasing number of participants and therefore importance given that 70% of what is gained from the sale of these tickets goes to the winning prize money handed out in the Christmas lottery. Going at 20 euros a ticket it may seem expensive for a piece of paper, however, the prize money is also a lot as well (usually around 4 million euros) therefore there are an increasing number of participants in Spain and abroad every year who want to try their luck and buy one of these tickets. Another famous lottery is the Sorteo del Niño that takes place on the 6th of January and with a prize almost as large as the el Gordo. So, now you know, by buying one of these tickets as a present for a loved one you may also buy them luck.
Christmas treats and sweets
All kinds of sweets and treats are eaten at Christmas in Spain because tis’ the season for all kinds of gastronomic concessions. However, tradition stands and therefore in each household you will find mantecados (crumbly almond cakes), turron, polvorones (crumbly almond and cinnamon cakes), and mazapanes (little marzipan cakes). Practically all of these products are produced with almonds, a product sold everywhere in Spain and the majority originate from Arab tradition. Thus, mantecados, a very typical Andalusian product originated in the XVI century as a consequence of a surplus of cereals and lard, which is where they get their name from. Polvorones are very similar to mantecados although they contain almonds and originate from Andalusia, the most famous kinds produced in Seville. And of course you’ll know what marzipan is. Turron also mainly contains almonds but it is made in a different way to that of marzipan. There are a large number of varieties, so they would definitely be a successful present to put on your Christmas shopping list given that they are traditional, typical, and tasty.
Christmas Log, Olentzero, and the Three Kings
Spain is a very varied country, and its multiple facets are reflected in the diversity in Christmas traditions depending on the region that you’re in. Thus, if you’re coming to Barcelona, you will find many stalls and shops where they sell the typical Tió de Nadal (Christmas log), that is nothing other than a tree trunk covered by a blanket that after giving it a good beating gives out presents, normally sweets and small gifts. Usually, before doing so a Christmas carol is sung whilst looking at the nativity scene, and then after hitting the Tio with a stick they look under the blanket to see the presents that have appeared. If you are in San Sebastian this Christmas, the tradition that predominates there is the Olentzero (a kind of Father Christmas), a jolly and good-natured coal merchant that comes down from the mountain following the birth of Christ with lots of presents for the children. Every Christmas Eve there is a parade featuring the Olentzero in the form of a huge doll with his music and traditional Basque songs accompanying him. Thus, it’s not a bad idea to take one of these jolly and typically Basque figures home with you.
Roscón de Reyes (Kings’ Cake)
Of course, other typical figures are the Reyes Magos or Three Kings that every 6th of January come riding on their camels to give out presents to good children. The day before all the family gets together to enjoy a Roscón del Rey (Kings’ Cake in the shape of a donut) in their wait for the Three Kings and in the hope that they will leave presents for the next day. A figurine of one of the Three Kings as a present and explaining this nice tradition whilst eating some tasty Kings’ Cake will always go down well. You can buy the cake in any confectioners, bakery, or large stores. Another obvious suggestion is a fine bottle of Spanish Cava that is nothing other than the Spanish variety of Champagne and if you want to celebrate a New Years Spanish style, then take a few tins of peeled grapes and eat a grape at each chime of the clock at midnight, then celebrate in the New Year with a drink of typical Spanish Cava.
So, celebrate a Spanish Christmas and……may luck be with you (if you buy the Gordo or el Niño!).
Claudia – Marketing Team