On most countries in the world, the holiday season has two main days of celebrations: Christmas and New Year’s Eve. In Spain, though, celebrations start on the 24th of December and keep on coming until the 6th of January.
It all starts with Christmas Eve, known as Spanish as Nochebuena. This a night where families get together and have mainly seafood meals and drink some cava, the Spanish version of Champagne. Some Spanish families have adopted the international tradition of Santa Claus, which means kids will receive presents either on the night of the 24th or the following day. Traditionally, the Spanish day for gifts is the 6th of January.
On the 25th of December, madrileños (people from Madrid) celebrate Christmas Day, joining again in family to share a large meal of roast lamb.
New Year’s Eve
On New Year’s Eve hoards of people go out into the streets to celebrate together, waiting for the clock to strike midnight. The most popular area for this ceremony is Puerta del Sol, a plaza in the center of the city that provides an excellent view of the large clock at Real Casa de Correos. Even those who cannot go to the plaza watch the Puerta del Sol celebration on television. When the clock pointer finally reaches 12, people eat twelve grapes (one grape per month), which supposedly brings them luck for the following year, and toast with cava. After that, most young people go to bars or nightclubs to celebrate.
Three Wise Men
On the 5th of January, adults and children hit the streets to watch the Three Wise Men parade which runs through the main streets of Madrid. Children love going to the parade, not only because the colorful costumes and music amuse them, but also because the Wise Men hand out candy.
The 6th of January is the last day of celebration in Spanish holiday season. This is the day in which Spanish people celebrate the Epiphany, a Christian holiday that commemorates two special events: the Three Wise Men arrival and Jesus’ baptism. This day is usually referred to as Dia de los Reyes, and is traditionally the official day for gift-giving.
The holiday season in Madrid is also a season for sweets. The most typical sweets are the turrón, a thick nougat bar usually made of almonds, sugar and honey; polvorones, a pressed-powdered biscuit made of almonds and butter; and the Roscón de Reyes, a ring-shaped pastry filled with Spanish custard, topped with crystallized fruit.