Soñando Sunday: Snapshots of Spain at Christmas

In this week’s edition of Soñando Sunday, we will be taking a break from our usual look at a specific destination and instead sharing with you some photos of what Spain actually looks like at Christmas time. The following shots were all captured in Granada, but can, for the most part, be found throughout the nation as a whole.

All is Merry and Bright

ornament-shaped lights
All sorts of lights and Christmas decorations can be found, mostly hanging above streets and walkways, at this time of year. It’s ideal for a festive stroll!

All sorts of lights and Christmas decorations can be found, mostly hanging above streets and walkways, at this time of year. It’s ideal for a festive stroll!

box-shaped lights

High street and most of the center (even less central locations, in most cities) will be decked out with Christmas lights from early December through early January. There is generally an official lighting ceremony (alumbrado) during the first weekend of December (or thereabouts) which you might want to look into in order to catch the first time the whole city gets lit up but I also love the magic of wandering out and catching the lights unexpectedly.

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

This is a REAL thing in Spain!!! I don’t know about you, but where I come from this is simply a line in a Christmas carol, nothing more. Here in Spain you can tell the Christmas season is revving up when chestnut-roasting stands start popping up on the sidewalks. People roasting and selling castañas will be relatively easy to find in most Spanish cities so just follow your nose towards the warm, Christmas scents you intuitively know despite perhaps never smelling roasting chestnuts before.

three kings

We Three Kings of Orient Are…

...very popular and important in the Spanish tradition of Christmas! Don’t be surprised to find the three kings, known as los reyes magos in Spanish, prominently displayed in your city nor to see kids lining up to snap their photo with these guys more than with Santa Claus. As we’ve mentioned before, foreign traditions like those of Santa Claus are gaining popularity in Spain but I don’t imagine he’ll ever replace the three kings. Read more about how the reyes are celebrated here.

Belen from outside

Take a Walk Through Bethlehem

The town of Bethlehem, where Jesus Christ is said to have been born, is known as Belén in Spanish. The word for nativity scene (the scene in which you see baby Jesus surrounded by his parents, the three wise men, etc) is also called a belén and you’re sure to happen upon a belén or two as you wander the streets of Spain at this time of year. Unlike in the US where this may consist of a few simplistic statues, the belén in the Spanish tradition is a full-out intricate town. They are sometimes built inside a church, shopping center, or other building or located in a square but still generally protected inside a pop-up structure of some sort. We’ll go into further detail on that soon!

Christmas tree cone structure

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!

Or should we say Christmas cone? It’s now that I’m coming up on my fifth Christmas season here, the Spanish-style Christmas tree feels quite normal to me, but it might strike you as a little funny. Don’t expect to see many actual trees or even artificial Christmas trees outdoors. Instead, important squares will be marked with a “Christmas tree” that is actually a hollow cone of lights. Like the Christmas lights that don the streets, the exact colors and design of the Christmas tree tends to change each year and if you listen closely, you’ll often hear the locals discussing how much better or worse this year’s version is. Whether they love or hate it, most everyone will line up to snap a photo with the ‘tree’ so be sure to get yours too!

We hope this visual representation and brief explanations of Spain at Christmas time helps you prepare for what to expect during your visit or to enjoy the Spain’s holiday season vicariously. It truly is a magical time of year to see Spain and so, although there are certainly some things to keep in mind if you will be planning a trip, we hope you come and enjoy it for yourself soon!

Feliz navidad,
Spain