Differences between English and Spanish Christmas
Have you ever spent a Christmas away from home? Have you ever wondered about the cultural differences between our yuletide celebrations and other countries´ version of Christmas cheer?
The first place you will notice a difference is the traditional dinner: the main Christmas meal is served on Christmas Eve. It is fairly similar to the stuffed turkey we are familiar with although some coastal provinces will focus more on seafood. After the meal, many families attend a Midnight Mass called ‘La Misa Del Gallo’ (The Mass of the Rooster), so named for the rooster that crowed the night that Jesus was born.
A ¨Feliz Navidad¨ wouldn´t be complete in Spain without a proud Belén in your home. The Belén is a Spanish nativity scene which depicts the birth of Jesus in great detail, traditionally going so far as to include a shepherd having a discrete poo in the corner! Modern day Beléns can be purchased at the many Belén icon markets and can even be Playmobil figurines for those with a sense of humour.
On the 28th of December, Spanish people celebrate a day of pranks, not unlike our April Fools.
Another great difference between English and Spanish Christmas is the giving of gifts. Whilst we English speakers tend to share them after the Christmas dinner or, better still, wait until Christmas morning to tiptoe to the tree and tear at our treats, the Spanish patiently wait until January 6th! They call this day ´Reyes´ after the Three Kings, or Wise Men that brought the first gifts to the baby Jesus.
Some big towns and cities have Epiphany Parades with each King riding down the main streets of town on big floats and throwing gifts and sweets into the gathered crowds.
A special cake called ‘Roscón’ is eaten at Epiphany. A Roscón is a doughy ring-shaped roll that can be filled with cream or chocolate and often contains a little gift.
Finally, whilst not strictly a difference between Christmas traditions, the custom of the New Year´s Eve countdown is present in Spain, although it takes a different form. On ¨Nochevieja¨ (Old Night) many Spanish people will flood their local town square, the biggest of which is the Puerta del Sol in Madrid to watch the clock sound off the last moments of the finishing year. With each chime of the clock, the people eat one whole grape, a total of 12. If they succeed in eating their twelve grapes by the final stroke of the clock, they supposedly will receive luck for the twelve months of the coming year.
So get your stomach primed and ready for the onslaught of hearty comfort food and rapidly consumed grapes. Mind you, if you know where to look, you can usually find an English pub that will serve you your traditional roast so you don´t feel too homesick.