We can’t say it’s winter weather here, unlike most parts of the world..but, it has been quite cold. Throw in the winds and it’s downright bone chilling. I think we have consumed more tea in the past three weeks than we have all year. I’m not sure why l thought Valencia would be warmer than Seville. Wrong!
Christmas Greetings from Valencia:
We are staying put for the Christmas holidays. Because both of us have been with family for weeks just recently, there was no real urgency to brave the holiday crowds, not to mention the astronomical costs of plane tickets. Like Malaga and Seville, the Christmas decorations are concentrated in the city center.
The only decorations l see is the occasional Santa on a balcony or a potted plant. I think that there is actually a more festive atmosphere because everyone comes out at night to hang out , the shops are open late as usual and the smell of chestnuts roasting fill the air.
The best part of the Christmas season holiday for me here has been not having to listen to freaking annoying Christmas songs :-), at least not in English. Working in the pharmacy all those years back, we heard nothing but 746 versions of Jingle Bells, Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, White Christmas etc. ad nauseam. It pains me to say shopping fever at Christmas is slowly creeping in here. Consumerism has started to rear its ugly head much to my dismay.
Moving to Valencia or anywhere else in Spain? Make sure to get your copy of our guide that walks you through the process. Start enjoying your life in the sun sooner.
Christmas Season in Valencia: Spanish Traditions
Valencia Christmas season runs from December 1 – January 6 of the new year. Some of the traditions of Valencia and Spain are:
Nativity Scene display:
While a lot of Spanish don’t bother with Christmas trees and over the top home decoration such as you see in the Sates, they do tend to display a nativity set in their homes. You can find plenty of the sets in places such as the Mercat Colon as shown above, and the Mercat central has a really big one on display in the middle of the market. Did you know the tradition of displaying nativity sets dates back to Saint Francis of Assisi who upon realising that the church chapel was to small to hold the congregation for Christmas mass decided to build an altar with a manger, baby, even an ox?
El caganer literally translates to “the shitter” or “the crapper” :-). This is a a figurine that is part of the nativity set. It started as a Catalan thing, but is definitely also found in Valencia and other areas with Catalan culture like Andorra and some parts of Souther France. The tradition of adding the caganer to the set is thought to have started in the 17th century and the whole point is to show all types of setting and actions in a typical city, not just the manger :-). It’s funny to see.
Lotteria de Navidad:
This is the Christmas lottery and is one of the most popular things ever. Even Federico plays it as the grand prize or El Gordo is a huge amount. It cost 20 euros a ticket, but you get a small payout even if you only have one number (I think 10 euros is the minimum prize). I don’t understand it much, but the lottery sellers are everywhere. Everywhere trying to sell you the tickets, on the metro, in the restaurants, there is even one camped out in front of the bakery downstairs and they do brisk business. This year the prize pool is over 2 Billion euros, so you can understand the frenzy. I just might play this year! Bon suerte everyone!!!
The biggest midnight mass in Valencia is at the Cathedral. I can’t think of a more beautiful setting for a church service. Last one l attended was in L.A. ahem..so many years ago, but l did enjoy it.
Christmas Eve Dinner:
The big celebration meal with family occurs on Christmas eve as opposed to Christmas day. That’s when the big dinners are cooked with lots of traditional Spanish food. A lot of Tapas, good quality Jamon, and lots of seafood, all washed down with Cava of course. On Christmas day, children may receive little money gifts called “Estrena” from their close family members.
Turron: Spanish Christmas Sweet
Along with the wonderful aroma of chestnuts roasting which fuels the festive spirit, turron is also available for sale all over town, in addition to marzipan and horchata of course!. Turron is thought to have been invented by the Moors over five centuries ago. Turron is made of wildflowers, honey and almonds and are also given as gifts during Christmas time.
There are two kinds of Turron:
- Soft: (Blando in Spanish), which is smooth kind and of reminds you of peanut butter as far as consistency.
- Hard (Duro) which is thick, hard, more like peanut brittle in looks. Not for me, my teeth are too brittle.. haha! get it? feeble Christmas humour l know :-).
Nochevieja: Doce uvas de la suerte
This is New Year’s eve. Lots of drinking cava and most people get together with friends and family to watch the countdown on television like they do in America. The hotspot is in Madrid. As the countdown occurs at the stroke of 12, you eat a grape with each gong for good luck. Make sure they are small grapes though :-). I almost chocked on regular sized ones in Seville. They sell the little ones in the market. This is to bring you good luck in the new year.
Three Kings Day: (Dia de Los Reyes)
The final day of the Christmas season. It celebrates the arrival of the three kings following the star to Bethlehem … as in “we three kings of orient are”. It’s a national holiday in Spain and that is when children receive their gifts if they’ve been nice. If not, they receive coal (usually dyed hard candy).
Roscon de Reyes:
Part of breakfast on Epiphany day. This sweet indulgence is to celebrate the visit of the Magi and traces its root to the Moors. It looks to me like a cake cut in half , filled with cream and fruit on top. There are two things to be found hidden somewhere in in the cake. If you find the plastic baby Jesus, you are crowned “King of the party” or Roscon. If you find the bean, you are the “tontolaba” or fool of the bean and the one who must pay for the dessert.
The Christmas season concludes with a parade where they throw hard candy sweets to the people on the streets. It’s fun, but l don’t like the caricature black helpers because it is extremely annoying to see people in blackface, bright red lipstick on huge lips, and ugly afro wigs. In this day and age, they can find real black people to do these parts. I don’t buy the “it’s tradition” bullshit.
Valencia Christmas: Different spots in the city
Mercat Colon Valencia:
The Mercat Colon was built in 1916 and is practically smack dab in the centre of town. It was originally a market built to serve the needs of the rapidly expanding neighbourhood. It eventually became run down before a refurbishment project that has given it new life as a hip hangout. There are quite a few eateries, pubs and shops. You can also find a lot of artisanal products there.
I also like the fact that they have a real Christmas tree as opposed to the “lights”.
Plaza Ayutamiento at Christmas:
The town hall plaza is where the official tree sits, along with a carousel and ice skating rink that is put up for the Christmas holidays. It’s a very popular spot come Christmas. There are some pop up Christmas markets close to here.
Ice Skating in Valencia:
Always an enjoyable experience watching the people skating. It has actually been cold. You can see people in jackets and hats trying to keep warm. Most will also warm up with churros con chocolate, another favourite local food. There are stands set up all over the city.
Over 1,000 stalls that sell everything from veggies to meat to seafood. The display in the middle if the draw during Christmas season. Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to catch a procession coming in through the market. Pretty cool to see. You can therefore understand why a Valencia Christmas break is popular. You can look for the best Valencia hotels .
Valencia Nord Station:
Valencia christmas lights are blazing. Even our train station gets decorated for Christmas, and it’s just beautiful. There is usually a small Christmas market across the street from it too.
Valencia Christmas Market:
Though not as fancy as the ones in the colder countries of Europe, the Christmas markets here are still pretty neat.
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We would like to take this chance to wish everyone an absolutely fantastic holiday season filled with love and peace. Our plans for the holiday involves lots of soups in the evenings, and plenty of movie marathons, like my favourite Christmas movies that l usually coerce him into watching. :-) . Our travel plans for the new year are still evolving.
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How will you be celebrating the Christmas holidays in your neck of the woods? Any Christmas traditions? Hopefully it includes a lot of food and family time.