This year will be our fourth Christmas in Spain and we have definitely noticed some differences in how the holiday is celebrated.
It’s been really interesting to see the different things that other nationalities do during the festive season, and we now have a mixture of Christmas traditions from both the UK and Spain.
Whether you’re planning a move to Spain, just thinking of holidaying in Spain over Christmas, here are some of the main differences between the UK and Spain at Christmas…
Three Kings not Santa
A big difference is that Santa Claus, or Papá Noel, doesn’t feature as highly at Christmas in Spain. The stars of the show are the Three Kings, who visit towns on the evening of the 5th January to leave presents.
Like Santa, the Kings will also leave lumps of coal for the naughty children – you can even buy ‘coal’ in bakeries and confectionery shops.
Children write letters to the three Kings and you’ll often see postboxes for these around towns and villages.
We still do presents on Christmas day, but we now also save one small present for 6th January!
The biggest difference for us is the weather! We’ve been so used to cold (and often wet) weather at Christmas that sunny Christmas are still a surprise!
We’ve been to the beach for walk before lunch every Christmas so far, and it’s always been t-shirt weather. In fact, not far from us is a Christmas day beach bbq attracting hundreds of people each year.
We have even managed to have Christmas lunch outside a couple of times which does feel quite strange!
Eating dinner on Christmas Eve
The Spanish have their main Christmas meal on Christmas eve night rather than at lunchtime on Christmas day. If you cook your own Christmas lunch you can obviously stick to what you’re used to, but if you get invited round to a Spanish home you’ll probably find it’s on Christmas eve instead.
Traditional Spanish Christmas Dinner usually features a roast suckling pig or seafood. It’s actually quite hard to find a turkey in a Spanish supermarket!
So far we’ve always managed to get a turkey from a local butcher but this year we’ll be eating Christmas dinner in a Spanish hotel so who knows what will be on the menu!
Christmas starts in December
In the UK you tend to start seeing shops full of Christmas things as soon as Halloween ends, if not weeks before. In Spain nothing really happens until December. There are no events until mid December, though the lights tend to turn on in the last week of November. But it definitely feels that the festive season is much shorter rather than dragging on for months.
Something that we noticed straight away was that in Spain things don’t go so crazy and over the top at Christmas. For example, the supermarkets aren’t full of Christmas decorations, food and sweets. Instead they just have a small section with Christmas treats. We even found it hard to buy Christmas decorations in Spain, having to go to the El Corte Ingles department store to buy them. We really like this about Spain as it feels that Christmas isn’t all about how much money you can spend, and is more about celebrating with family.
No Christmas cards
Christmas cards just aren’t a thing in Spain so you won’t see these piled up in the shops. In fact, if you do want to send cards it can be quite difficult to find them, and you’re unlikely to find any that aren’t in English.
We no longer bother with Christmas cards, just using Moonpig for the few that we do send to the grandparents.
Celebrating in January
As mentioned above, the big celebration in Spain is on the 6th January for the Three Kings or Epiphany. While Christmas itself is still celebrated, the big festivities are in January. On the 5th January children will visit the Kings in churches and shopping malls, often along with a procession through the town of the Kings on horses and camels throwing sweets to the children. Shops, schools and businesses will be closed, with many closing for the first week of January.
Will you be spending Christmas in Spain this year? If so, we hope you enjoy your Christmas along with some new traditions and celebrations. What are some other differences between the UK and Spain at Christmas that you’ve noticed?