A Spanish Christmas!
Though Christmas 2020 is being celebrated in Spain with Covid19 restrictions in place, Spanish people traditionally have their celebratory dinner on Christmas Eve. Firstly though, there is the business of checking their numbers in the El Gordo “the big one” lottery, held annually since 1812. Once they’ve discovered whether or not they have become instant millionaires, extended families gather around the table to enjoy a traditional spread including turkey which is deliciously stuffed with truffles of mushroom. In some parts of Spain, like Galicia, it is more traditional to serve seafood on this special holiday.
While Papa Noel, ie Santa Claus, leaves small gifts for the children on Christmas Eve, these are not considered as important to Spaniards, as those left on 5th January, the eve of Epiphany which is the Feast of the Three Kings in Spain. This is when the re-enactment of the three wise men arriving at Bethlehem, to see baby Jesus, takes place. That festival is considered bigger than Christmas Day in Spain and is normally celebrated on 6th January with huge parades, all over the country.
Christmas Eve continues with families attending Midnight Mass, which in Spanish is called ‘La Misa de Gallo. ‘ Noisy celebrations follow throughout the streets as torches are carried by individuals among crowds walking through villages, towns or cities, to the sound of drums, guitars and tambourines, keeping up the celebratory vibe. Is it any wonder that they rest on Christmas Day?
In many parts of Spain, including Orihuela Costa, expats celebrate Christmas in their own traditional way. There is a range of services, both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, for those wishing to practise their chosen faith. Once the children have got over the excitement of opening their gifts from Santa Claus and family and friends, the celebrations continue for one and all. These might be in their Spanish home, enjoying a few drinks close to the twinkling lights of the tree or, weather permitting, enjoying a cocktail al fresco. The family may sit around the table having a delicious turkey meal with all the trimmings, expat style. A nice post-feast stroll along one of the promenades of the beautiful localities of Orihuela Costa, Torrevieja, Torre de La Horadada, San Pedro del Pinatar, La Manga or indeed anywhere along the Spanish Costas, is often be enjoyed. The evenings may be taken up with party games and continued cocktails or indeed a meet up with friends at one of the local bars.
A less traditional but equally enjoyable way to celebrate Christmas Day has been the La Zenia Beach Christmas Party on the Orihuela Costa. Though unlikely to go ahead this year due to Covid 19 restrictions, this event sees expats mix with Spanish locals and tourists, when there is a mass exodus to the sandy cove that brings together numerous groups of people to enjoy Christmas in the sunshine. BBQs and picnics are in abundance, crowds colourfully peppered with red and white Santa hats, even Santa suits. There are always a group of people happy to brave the cooler water of the winter months, in fact, this is one of the highlights of the day as many charge into the water, leaving Santa hats floating on the surface as they plunge into the cool depths. The only way to do it at this time of year!!
Carol singing is a huge part of the La Zenia Beach Christmas party, with music played by a local brass band and a group singing many Christmas favourites, suitably attired with seasonal hats and antlers, the sounds of which are strangely at odds with the blue skies and sandy shore. For many, a barbeque or picnic is the way to go but there is always the option of the La Mirada Restaurant which sits fondly overlooking the festivities, like a proud elderly relative, steady and consistent in its presence at La Zenia beach for many years.
The event attracts people from all over the world, in excess of one hundred nationalities, gathered together to party at, as Andy Williams sang, ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’