Tag Archives: Christmas

El Dia de los Reyes Magos

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So Christmas may seem like a distant memory, with only the novelty of presents and an expanded waist line as a reminder of the festive time.  And yet, I returned to Spain January 4th feeling that post-Christmas gloom… only to celebrate it again!!  Well, Christmas in the Spanish style, known as ‘El dia de los reyes magos’.  Now, this day, January 6th was actually a while ago now, but due to poor internet, there was a bit of delay on this post, so we’ll just pretend I posted it last week, as I was supposed to.

So, I’ve put together a list of the top 3 things you can see during the ‘Three King’s Day’, as it is referred to in English.

3) PRESENTS

Alternatively celebrate with a dessert - though who knew Baileys, Tia Maria, Ameretto and chocolate would make you feel a little bit sick at night?

As a colleague of mine so eloquently explained, “In Spain, the Kings bring the presents, not the big fat beardy Coca-Cola man [Santa – wasn’t sure if I had to clarify that!]” As in the Bible, the Kings bring the presents, and this is the tradition that Spain follows.

Although this doesn’t fulfil Wizzard’s wish of “Christmas every dayyyyyyy”, it does mean that the Spanish can enjoy all the food, festivities and Christmas TV on December 25 and January 6th– pretty good deal!

2) ROSCON DE REYES

This can only be described as a big, sugary donut-like cake.  You’ll see these ‘Roscon de Reyes’ everywhere, they are the Christmas pudding of Spain.  I went to the supermarket on January 6th, and it was a similar sight to England, but with people making a mad dash for a roscon or two.

The roscon usually is suger-coated pastry filled with cream and topped with fruit (covered in sugar).  I did try the roscon with my colleagues, and it’s definitely something to try.  However, having a slice during my 10am coffee break meant that the by 11am I was on a considerable sugar high.

Spain also has a fun tradition where the cakes are filled with a little figure, either of Jesus or just a toy.  The person that finds the toy (in our case – a little Goofy) receives the toy and the title of king or queen.  This honour came complete with a gold card crown that we insisted Ana wear for a while.  The other ‘surprise’ in the cake is a bean – a somewhat unlucky surprise as the recipient then has to pay for the roscon!

The office Roscon del Reyes - I can taste the sugar!

1) CABALGATA DE LOS REYES

The biggest and most exciting thing you will hear about is the ‘Cabalgata de los reyes’ – the Kings parade, which usually takes place the day before the Dia de Reyes.  In towns all over Spain, kids will drag their parents to fill the streets and watch as the Kings go by throwing out sweets to the crowds of people.  Usually, this takes place after activities are held for the children somewhere in town.

I didn’t truly understand the excitement of the whole thing until I tried to walk home and ended up battling my way through crowds and crowds of people that had lined the streets an hour early in anticipation for the arrival of the Kings.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch the parade but caught glimpses as it passed me by enroute to the supermarket.  Worst of all, I received no sweets, but you can’t really fight a 5 year old though.  What struck me is that, such is the mentality of keeping things clean in Spain, the parade was followed by a line of road sweepers who swept up the sweet wrappers as they went along.  An efficient and effective way of tackling mess around town, I thought.

But that there is your summary to Spanish Christmas – El Dia de los Reyes Magos, a post somewhat delayed but festive all the same, just like January 6th.

 

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Navidad, Navidad, Navidad.

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December – the most festive time of the year, has been a beauty of a month for me.  Celebrations for my 21st, visits from friends (shout out to Becca Reid and Jenny Barnes, much love), Christmas cheer, and I now write this post from the lovely, if a bit chilly, England after 5 months in Spain.

Still double-digit degree weather in Estepona, at least during the day, England’s bitter cold is shocking.  But exactly what I expect at Christmas.  Sunny days, palm trees and the beach, despite being wonderful, do make Christmas seem months away.  Only the odd Christmas advert and Bublé tunes remind you of the time of year when in the Costa del Sol – a sharp contrast to being smothered by the festive season as soon as you step off the plane (though this is one of the things I missed about England).  Despite my happiness that Christmas lights began to illuminate the streets of Estepona on my birthday, 8th December, this is somewhat later than lights would begin appearing in England.

And of course, with this festive season comes the office Christmas celebrations (with a Spanish twist).  Think less turkey, and more fish – though it was the tastiest sea bass I’d ever eaten!  A delicious meal at the Da Bruno restaurant in Marbella, with English touches including crackers – which then led to explaining the bad cracker jokes in Spanish, definitely made the festive cheer more apparent.  We replaced the English ‘Secret Santa’ with its Spanish counterpart – ‘el regalo invisible’, where instead of being buying for a specific person, you have to buy a unisex gift which is then passed around the table in a pass the parcel-esque game, accompanied by a story directing the present either “left” or “right”.  The meal was then followed by the universal “let’s go for drinks”, taking us around Marbella still wearing our Santa hats.

Christmas Celebrations with the Office

Despite coming back to England for Christmas, there are certain Spanish traditions that I was able to experience.

1)      All over the streets of Estepona, not only are you warmed by the Spanish weather but also the smell of chestnuts roasting on street corners by the street vendors.

2)      What you will see as frequently, if not more frequently than Christmas trees in Spain, are traditional nativity scenes

Traditional Belén

, known as a ‘Belén’, which is the Spanish word for Bethlehem.      People put these in their homes, and can be found widely around Spain including El Corte Ingles.  Jenny and I stumbled across a huge ‘Belén’ in Estepona.  Walking around it, the whole of the Christmas story was depicted on this nativity scene, complete with angels, wise men and the baby Jesus.

3)      In terms of food, ‘turron’ is the Christmas speciality, which is a sweet made of almonds and honey.  Although I didn’t get a chance to taste it in Spain, there’s a pack sitting in my kitchen to be opened on Christmas day (as if we won’t have enough to eat on Christmas day!)  And one thing you can’t escape in Spain is huge legs of ham, which are usually enjoyed by families at Christmas, and range from 50 Euros to about 700!

Another Spanish Christmas tradition is ‘El Dia de los Inocentes’, otherwise known as April Fool’s Day, which takes place on December 28th, and throughout the Christmas season.

Some Christmas traditions are the same everywhere, whether in Spain or England, with lights and decorations and the general Christmas cheer/panic.  And unfortunately, even I couldn’t escape Bieber’s destruction of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’.

Christmas isn’t even the biggest celebration in Spain; I can look forward to the day of the three kings (‘El Dia de los Reyes’) on 6th January.

But before all of that, whether it’s “Merry Christmas” or “Feliz Navidad” (or nothing at all) enjoy the rest of 2011 and I’ll see you in 2012!