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Spanish Christmas: The Family Marathon

Editor’s note: Today’s Spanish Holiday explanation is brought to you by our good friends at Notes from Spain. If you want to learn Spanish check out their amazing podcast: Notes in Spanish, where they teach Spanish by having conversations that are actually fun to listen to! Today Ben describes what the traditions are here in Spain. I hope you enjoy it and if you have time make sure to stop over to their site and check it out!

We all know that Christmas can be a bit exhausting: parties, meals, family, too much to drink, but in the end, you really only have to worry about two big occasions: Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Then it’s all mercifully over and you can get on with breaking your New Year’s Resolutions.

Not so in Spain. In Spain, Christmas is an test of endurance, only for the brave. In fact, if it was an Olympic event, the Spanish would take gold every time. It goes something like this:

December 24th, Nochebuena: One of the biggest nights in the calendar. The family gets together for a huge dinner, with plenty of seafood, probably the freshest, most expensive fish they can find, and with any luck, a good hunk of meat. As soon as you have you got to bed and managed to sleep this off, it’s…

December 25th – Navidad: Time to get together with the family again – remember all those guys you just ate with last night? More meat, lots of gambas, and plenty of wine but, strangely enough, usually no presents. Although some households are taking on the Santa Claus tradition just to keep their kids quiet, most gift-giving doesn’t happen for another 12 days yet.

After a merciful break, no doubt filled with the odd innocent-sounding meal with uncles and aunts, we get to…

December 31st – Nochevieja: Another big one, in fact the biggest family meal of the year, and in Spain, that’s saying something. Starting off with prawns, maybe some octopus, moving on to Merluza (Hake), then maybe sirloin steak, suckling pig or lamb – from 10 p.m. until midnight there’s nothing to do but eat,
washing it down with bottles of tinto and Cava! Then, as the clock strikes 12, everyone eats one grape for every chime of the clock – if you get all 12 down, then you’re guaranteed good luck for the coming year.

January 1st – Año Nuevo. It’s not over yet, not by a long run! You wake up, can’t imagine ever eating another thing in your life, and guess what… you’re meeting the whole family again for lunch! Yup, mum, dad, brothers and sisters, the loved ones you spent hours with last night – you’re all going to be back together at 2 p.m. for an insanely large roast lunch.

January 6th – Reyes. At last, it’s over. No one can take much more now so the family only meets in the afternoon for a few large cakes. Presents, brought along by Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings) are distributed, and with a sigh of relief, everyone heads home to try and work out just where on earth they are
going to summon the energy to go back to work.

So that’s Christmas in Spain, it’s exhausting just writing about it! Do you think you could last the course?

Ben writes about Spain at NotesfromSpain.com, and teaches Spanish
with his wife Marina at NotesinSpanish.com – check out their
latest podcast, Feliz Navidad, to learn more about Christmas in Spain and how to
pronounce all the key festive vocab.

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