The lights adorning the streets, the decorated trees, the artisanal markets, the nativity scenes of all shapes and sizes, the parades…they all form part of the Christmas traditions of Spain. But each region has its own special customs as well, passed down from generation to generation. Today our golf resort presents some of the most singular traditions you can enjoy in eastern Spain if you spend the holidays at your apartment at La Manga Club.
The puppet nativity scene of Alcoy (Alicante)
The Tirisiti Nativity Scene is one of the traditions that rings in the Christmas season. In fact, parts of this nativity scene made with puppets begin to go up in the Alicante town of Alcoy at the end of the month of November. It’s so popular that many schools and associations organize excursions to see this unique display, and as Christmas draws closer, it’s opened to the public and many families come to the town to enjoy the magic of this tradition.
The caga tió (Catalunya)
The caga tió is a Catalan tradition based on the creation of a wooden log with a face that symbolizes the reciprocity of acts of kindness and affection. Legend tells that if you treat it well, it will regale you with presents at Christmas. In order for this to happen, you must hit the log with a stick and it will loose the gifts. It’s a unique tradition that you will find on display in many plazas and public markets in the towns of Catalunya and that the little children in your house are sure to love.
Originally from Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) and later inherited by other towns and regions of Andalusia and even Murcia, the zambombas and guitars are an ingrained part of the Christmas tradition. Families and friends will get together around a bonfire to sing villancicos, popular songs, and even to dance flamenco. Andalusia is the joy and the art of its people, and it couldn’t be any other way in a period as important as the Christmas holidays.
The auroros (Murcia)
There’s no Murcian who doesn’t love the sound of the auroros, and now that you have an apartment at La Manga Club, you can enjoy it too. The auroros are choral groups made up of people from rural areas who have preserved and perform ancient songs derived from the religious liturgy. Aguinaldos and trovos are songs performed by these popular groups, accompanied by bells, violins, tambourines, lutes, and guitars, that fill the streets and plazas during the Murcian holiday season.
The 12 New Year’s Eve grapes (throughout Spain)
Eating 12 grapes, one for each of the tolls of the clock at midnight marking the beginning of the new year, is a tradition carried out throughout Spain. Its origin remains a mystery, but there are many hypotheses. One of these says that at the beginning of the XX century, in the year 1909, there was a great grape harvest with tons of surplus product. So the farmers of Murcia and Alicante, in order to bring all of the product to market, promoted a consumer campaign for “lucky grapes”, as a symbol of good luck for the new year. Little by little, eating these 12 grapes became popular throughout Spain, and today it’s one of the most common traditions on New Year’s Eve no matter where you travel in the country. Joining in is a must, especially if you’re at your apartment at La Manga Club!
The Siren’s Song (Mallorca)
If we head over to the Balearic Islands, we’ll also find loads of special Christmas traditions. In Mallorca, for example, one of the most popular is the Siren’s Song, a Gregorian song performed during Midnight Mass by a person dressed in a tunic, an embroidered cape, a helmet, and a sword. It’s a kind of theatrical representation that is given its due respect in Balearic culture, and which has probably been handed down from the Greco-Roman tradition.
The aguinaldo (Christmas box) (Valencia)
Asking for items for the aguinaldo (or Christmas box), is one of the oldest traditions in the area of Valencia. It has been maintained over time and passed down from generation to generation. Traditionally, during the day on New Year’s Eve, children would go around the various establishments in town singing villancicos, and they would receive the aguinaldo in return. The owners of the shops, after listening to their songs accompanied by zambombas and carracas, would give a few coins or pastries, muffins, hazelnuts, walnuts, and chestnuts.
That’s it for our round-up of popular Christmas customs in eastern Spain! Get to know them all, taking advantage of your Christmas stay at your apartment at La Manga Club to escape to some small towns and big cities filled with traditions and magic.