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christmas in spain traditions and places to visit

Spain is a big country, and its landscape, traditions, and culture vary from one region to another. If you choose to come to Spain, you can be sure to leave culturally enriched and filled with great energy. And that’s mainly thanks to the Spanish culture.

I lived in Spain, Barcelona, for over 2 years and experienced Christmas not just once. Besides, we decided to travel through Spain in December one year and celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Seville. So I’ve gained a great understanding of what Christmas is really like in Spain.

In this article, I’ll answer all your questions. Let’s dive into it.

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What Is Spain Like During Christmas?

Spain is charming during Christmas. I love the atmosphere of its Christmas markets, especially in Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo, and Málaga. The carols play, locals decorate streets with Christmas decorations, and big Christmas trees on the main squares.

Everyone eats turrón and comes to a bakery to order their lucky Roscón de Reyes, a traditional Christmas Cake.

The Spanish like to celebrate Christmas with their families and friends. They have the main family dinner on the 24th of December, another dinner, on the 31st of December to celebrate the New Year, and on the 5th and 6th of January, to celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men bringing presents.

5 Facts About Christmas In Spain

As we know, the Spanish have unique traditions and festivals, so their Christmas is slightly different from the other countries. slightly different.

So, here I’ve got 5 main facts about Spanish Christmas for you:

✨ The Big Spanish Lottery on the 22nd of December draws the lucky people who win El Gorno.
Santa Claus has forgotten Spain – he doesn’t bring presents – The 3 Kings bring Christmas presents only on the 6th of January.
Belén – a Nativity Scene is a traditional Christmas decoration in Spain
Caganer is also put into the Belén.
Christmas is celebrated on 24th December with a big family dinner and traditional sweets such as turrón and polvorones.

spain in december toledo
My friend and I visiting Toledo in December – Christmas Time

👉 READ ALSO: Best Of Spain Itinerary: 14 Days In Spain

12 Christmas Traditions In Spain You Need To Experience

Below is a closer to into Spanish Christmas with traditions and culture. It contains all significant Christmas traditions in Spain. So see what locals do in Spain.

Maybe, you can adopt some of these traditions to your home this year and celebrate Christmas like the Spanish do.

Under each tradition, I’ve also listed where in Spain it’s celebrated as each region has slightly different traditions.

Here is a quick list of 12 Christmas traditions in Spain:

  1. Immaculate Concepción
  2. El Gordo – Christmas Lottery
  3. Roscón De Reyes
  4. Caganer – Pooping Man
  5. Turrón & Polvorones
  6. La Nochebuena
  7. La Nochevieja
  8. 12 Uvas Until The New Year
  9. Cabogata
  10. Los Reyes Magor
  11. Cagatio – Spanish Christmas Log
  12. Día De Los Santos Inocentes

1. Immaculate Concepción

The Christmas, for some, starts on the 8th of December, with a major celebration in Seville. It’s a festive day when Catholics celebrate that Virgin Mary was free from sins from the moment of her conception.

The Spanish like to celebrate it big, go out to the streets. There is a big procession with dancers on the Baile de los Seises that lead towards the Cahtedral of Seville.

2. El Gordo – Christmas Lottery

One of the funniest Christmas traditions in Spain is the Christmas lottery. Everyone goes crazy about this. When I was working in Barcelona, my colleagues made me buy a lotto and participate in this lottery.

I’m not a huge fan, but… well, since you’re in Spain, you gotta buy a 20EUR ticket and be part of it.

El Gordo – What is it, you may ask? El Gordo is the price you get when you win this national lottery. They draw the lucky winners in the Royal Theatre in Madrid on the 22nd of December.

And why is it so big here in Spain? This tradition started in the 1812 century when King Charles III. needed to raise money to fight against Napoleon.

So he created this ‘Lotería de Navidad’ to make people pay in exchange for the hope of winning the Gordo (the ‘fat’ price). And it still goes on until today.

3. Roscón De Reyes

Roscón de Reyes is a typical Christmas Cake that the Spanish people eat, usually for breakfast. It’s officially made for the celebration of the Tres Reyes (Three Wise Men), celebrated on the 6th of January. But it has become an all-time Christmas tradition.

It’s a sponge cake baked in a circular shape, filled with a cream layer in the middle, and topped with some candies.

Locals like to order it in a bakery the day before and eat it fresh the next morning, usually on the 6th of January.

But there is more to it. While eating it, if you find a bean in the cake, you’re the loser and pay for the cake. But getting a small king figure in your bite will bring you luck for the year ahead.

christmas in spain roscon de reyes
Roscón de Reyes – Traditional Spanish Christmas Cake

4. Caganer – Pooping Man

I can’t really tell you what’s behind this caganer. But it’s so funny. I remember seeing it for the first time in Spain while walking through Barcelona. And all of a sudden, I saw these pooping man figures in a window shop.

And I was like, what a h* does that mean? Until now, I can’t answer the question.

But it’s big in Catalonia. Locals put it as a Christmas decoration in the Belén, under the Christmas tree, or onto their tables. It’s supposed to bring good luck. Perhaps it has something to do with the Cagatio (read further).

👉 READ ALSO: 8 Best Road Trips From Barcelona

5. Turrón & Polvorones

Another Spanish specialty you have to try during Christmas is these two sweets: polvorones and turrón.

Now, be careful with polvorones. They’re super powdery, and you either need a liquid to wash it off your throat or be careful when eating it. Otherwise, they’re super sweet but worth trying.

Another one is turrón, a nougat bar made of honey and almonds. But they add different ingredients, like sugar, candies, nuts, and chocolate.

My favorite turrón is the original one with honey and almonds. I can’t eat many of them, but they’re amazing.

6. La Nochebuena

Spanish people celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, which is called La Nochebuena. It’s typical for a family to gather and eat a festive dinner.

They usually eat various tapas as a starter, including seafood like ‘gambas al aji,’ which is shrimps with garlic and oil, pulpo (octopus), or navajas, roast meat, potatoes, bread, asparagus with mayonnaise, or patatas bravas.

After, the main dish comes, often fish or meat (suckling pig, lamb, or stuffed Turkey).

As a dessert, they usually eat turrón and marzipan. Some people also eat Roscón de Reyes.

7. La Nochevieja

Nochevieja is one of my favorite Christmas traditions in Spain, which is the last day of the year, the 31st of December. The family gets together again and eats dinner.

Later in the evening, everyone goes out to the main square in their city with a Cava (champagne) and grapes. Grapes, what is that, you may ask…? Yeah, that’s exactly why I love Spain so much.

christmas in spain 12 uvas nochevieja
Me celebrating New Year in Spain with 12 grapes above Barcelona

8. 12 Uvas Until The New Year

You need to eat 1 grape per second and count down the last 12 seconds of the year until the New Year.

Can you stuff 12 grapes into your mouth within 12 seconds? Well, I couldn’t, honestly 😂. But it’s a lot of fun. And apparently, it brings good luck for the next year ahead.

Afterward, you celebrate New Year’s Eve on a square with other friends and family members, wishing everyone a Happy New Year (if you’ve already eaten those 12 grapes, lol).

spain in december seville
My friend and I eating grapse 12 seconds before New Year’s Eve – Seville

9. Cabogata

Cabogata is celebrated on the 5th of January, the night when locals greet the Tres Reyes (Three Wise Men) arriving in every Spanish town. There is usually a big procession with the kings and other interesting creatures going through the town and announcing the arrival of Tres Reyes.

Locals come to see it and throw candies onto the kings.

10. Los Reyes Magor

Santa Claus has forgotten about Spain, sadly. Because it’s one of the countries that doesn’t get its Christmas gifts on the 24th or 25th of December. And Santa Claus doesn’t come even in the following days.

So, do the Spanish even get any Christmas presents? Or do they only eat grapes for Christmas… well, they do. But only on the 6th of January. Because in Spain, the Reyes Magos, or the Three Wise Men, come with presents.

So you must leave your shoes by the Christmas Tree on the 5th of January in the evening. And the next day, when you wake up, you get presents… maybe.

11. Cagatio – Spanish Christmas Log

Cagatio is one of the funniest Spanish Christmas traditions for me. It’s famous in Catalonia, Barcelona. Now, Cagatio is a log with a smiley face and a hat covered in a blanket.

Parents bring it home at the beginning of the month, and children feed it until Christmas (with turrón).

The kids come on the 24th of December and start beating the log with a stick while singing traditional songs, telling the log to ‘poop’ presents for them.

It says: Cagatio Cagatio, give me some nice presents. If you don’t, I’ll hit you with a stick.

christmas in spain caganer spanish christmas log

12. Día De Los Santos Inocentes

The Spanish celebrate the Day of the Fools on the 28th of December, not like many other nations, in April. So be careful if you’re in Spain around this time of the year and someone is telling you something.

They might be making fun of you. And they do take advantage of it because they’re one of the few countries that don’t celebrate Fool’s Day in April. And many don’t know it.

Spanish Christmas Food

The Spanish eat a lot of delicious food during Christmas. So let me tell you what it is that they prepare and enjoy.

So here is a list of typical Christmas food in Spain:

🥂 Tapas – Patatas Bravas, roast meat, seafood (gambas al aji, pulpo), Iberico ham, chorizo, cheese (Manchego), bell peppers, asparagus with mayonnaise
🥂 Fish
🥂
Lamb
🥂
Suckling pig
🥂
Stuffed Turkey
🥂
Turrón
🥂
Polvorones
🥂
Roscón de Reyes
🥂
Candies

Typical Spanish Christmas Dinner

On the 24th and 31st of December, the families get together and celebrate in big. It’s also when they eat the most food and have the biggest dinners.

So, as a starter, they have various tapas dishes and appetizers like patatas bravas with sauce, asparagus with mayonnaise, roast meat, a lot of seafood, Iberico ham, chorizo, slices of cheese (Manchego is typical), vegetables, and salads.

A typical Spanish Christmas meal as a main course is either fish, lamb, suckling pig, or stuffed Turkey. It depends on the family, but I experienced that most families like to eat stuffed Turkey.

For desserts, the Spanish eat their typical Christmas sweets: turrón, polvorones, and candies.
The next day, for breakfast, they eat the Roscón de Reyes.

History Of Christmas In Spain

The history of Christmas dates back to the Catholic celebrations when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. It also has something to do with the 18th century when King Charles III created the Royal Lottery.

History Of The Christmas Lottery

One of the big Christmas traditions is the Christmas Lottery, which dates back to the 18th century when King Charles III. decided to create the Royal Lottery.

Later, in 1812, he made a Christmas Lottery to raise money to fight against Napoleon.

Ever since, people have been crazy about the lottery, and it has remained one of the biggest Spanish traditions. It’s the biggest lottery in the world; the lucky winner is drawn on the 22nd of December and gets what is called ‘El Gordo,’ the fat one.

History Of Christmas

Besides, the history of Spanish Christmas goes back to when Jesus Christ was born on the 24th of December in a cave stall in Bethlehem. Locals put the Belén everywhere to remind themselves of his birth and have a big family dinner.

After, they also celebrate the historical arrival of the Three Wise Men, who came to Bethlehem after Jesus was born. They came to greet him and brought him some presents.

From this historical event, a Spanish tradition of the Three Kings bringing presents was adopted in Spain, and they celebrate it on the 6th of January, getting presents and eating a popular Christmas Cake, Roscón de Reyes.

christmas in spain decoration buildings
Christmas Decorations In Toledo – Spain

Spanish Christmas Decorations

Let me tell you – Spanish people have some of the weirdest and funniest Christmas decorations in the world.

I usually don’t buy souvenirs, because I don’t like storing so many of them. But buying a Christmas souvenir/decoration from Spain is a different thing.

It’ll bring a smile to your face from how ridiculous some of these decorations are.

So here is a list of the main Spanish Christmas decorations:

🍭 Belén
🍭
Caganer
🍭
Mistletoe
🍭
Christmas tree (iron construction with lights)
🍭
Christmas lights
🍭 Turrón

Spanish Christmas Songs: Ultimate Christmas Playlist

I’ve also got a playlist for you with traditional Spanish Christmas songs to bring you into the Spanish Christmas mood more easily.

Make a playlist on Spotify or click on the link and listen to it while reading this article or preparing for Christmas at home.

Feliz Navidad
Mi Burrito Sabanero
La Marimorena
Hoy Es Navidad
Campana Sobre Campana
Noche De Paz

Weather In Spain During Christmas

The weather in Spain during Christmas varies depending on the region. Northern and Central Spain are the coldest, and southern and eastern Spain are quite warm. On average, temperatures range around 12°C/53°F.

Weather In Norther & Central Spain

To enjoy a snowy Christmas, visit northern and central Spain. There is a chance of snow, but I can’t guarantee it.

Burgos, Leon, Toledo, or even Madrid usually get some snow. The temperatures are around 11°C/52°F. It gets cold so bring a winter jacket and warm shoes.

Weather In Southern Spain

If you want to enjoy a warm Christmas, visit southern Spain. Málaga, Cádiz, and Seville are the warmest cities in Spain in December.

The temperatures range between 14°C/57°F and 17°C/63°F. Bring a light jacket and a sunscreen. The sun shines bright; it’s only slightly chilly.

christmas in madrid
Christmas In Madrid – Spain

Christmas Holidays In Spain

The official Christmas holidays in Spain are on the 24th, 25th, and 26th of December. Then again, for some people, it’s on the 31st of December and the 1st of January, and the last festive day is on the 6th of January.

For many, Christmas starts on the 22nd of December in Spain, when they draw ‘El Gordo’ from the Christmas Lotería.

Schools and some people have holidays from 23rd of December until the 7th of January (2 weeks in total).

The 6th of January is the last festive day when locals celebrate Los Tres Reyes, the Three Wise Men.

👉 READ ALSO: Best Of Southern Spain Itinerary: 10 Days In Andalusia

Best Christmas Markets In Spain

Spain also has beautiful Christmas markets. You can buy traditional souvenirs such as cagatio (you’ll see him everywhere), Belén, advent wreaths, and various Christmas decorations.

Besides, you can try local food, usually cookies, Roscón de Reyes, turrón and polvorones, and hot chocolate with churros.

The best Christmas markets in Spain are in the following cities:

🎄 MADRID
🎄 TOLEDO
🎄 BARCELONA
🎄 BILBAO
🎄 MÁLAGA
🎄 SEVILLE

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Where To Spend Christmas In Spain

If you choose to visit Spain for your Christmas holiday and experience local traditions, these are the best places I recommend you to stay:

🏠 MADRID

Madrid is perfect for experiencing a Christmas atmosphere with many food and decorations. It’s also the place of the Christmas Lottery and the Nochevieja celebration.

I recommend the following hotels to stay in Madrid:

Hostal Palacio Luna budget-friendly hotelbook here
Hotel Liabenymid-range hotelbook here
Oriente Palace Apartmentsluxury apartmentsbook here

🏠 TOLEDO

Toledo is a cute medieval town and will bring you immediately into the Christmas mood. It’s cozy, with beautiful Christmas markets. During the day, you can join a walking tour and learn about the history. It’s one of the most beautiful towns in Spain.

Here are the hotels I recommend in Toledo for your stay:

Barrio Reybudget-friendly hotelbook here
Parador Del Toledomid-range hotelbook here
Hacienda Cruzluxury apartmentsbook here

🏠 BARCELONA

Barcelona is great for Christmas to experience unique Spanish Christmas traditions like Caganer and Cagatio. It has mild temperatures, yet the perfect Christmasy atmosphere, too.

I recommend the following hotels in Barcelona:

HCC Montblancbudget friendly hotelbook here
Catalonia Plaza Catalunyamid-range hotelbook here
W Barcelonaluxury hotel with ultimate viewsbook here

🏠 SEVILLE

Stay in Seville if you want to explore Andalusia, visit its historical sights, and enjoy some of the best traditions. It’s a great place to celebrate, as the city always goes big with processions, dancers, and life performances.

Here are the hotels I recommend in Seville for your stay:

atLumbreras 16budget-friendly hotelbook here
Uma Suites Parada Del Marquesmid-range hotelbook here
Hotel Alfonzo XII Luxury Collection – luxury apartmentsbook here

Spanish Christmas Vocabulary: Quick Lesson

If you want to visit a new country, learning a few words before traveling is always a great idea. It’ll help you have better experiences and integrate into local life.

So here I have a few Christmas phrases and words you can learn to understand the Spanish Christmas culture even better.

What Is The Name Of Christmas In Spain?

Navidad‘ is the name for Christmas in the Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain, Central and Latin America.

How To Say Merry Christmas In Spain?

Feliz Navidad‘ is the Spanish phrase for saying ‘Merry Christmas’. You can use it in all Spanish-speaking countries in the world. Listen to the famous song ‘Feliz Navidad’ to learn how to pronounce it.

What Is Santa Called In Spain?

Papa Noel‘ is the name of Santa in Spain. The traditions have changed over time, and locals started substituting the Tres Reyes (Three Wise Men) with Papa Noel bringing presents on the 25th of December, as other countries have it.

Basic Spanish Christmas Vocabulary

Here is my list of the most important Spanish Christmas words and phrases. Save it, learn it, and enjoy Spain during Christmas even more.

SPANISH WORD/PHRASE:ENGLISH TRANSLATION:
Feliz NavidadMerry Christmas
Papa NoelSanta Claus
NochebuenaChristmas Eve
Nochevieja31st of December (evening)
Año NuevoNew Year
Mercados de NavidadChristmas Markets
El GordoThe Fat One (lottery price)
Loteria de NavidadChristmas Lottery
Árbol de NavidadChristmas tree
Regalospresents

FAQs

I’ve also answered some of the frequently asked questions. Check my answers below.

Why Does Spain Celebrate Christmas On January 6th?

It’s a tradition that dates back to when Jesus Christ was born. On January 6th, the Three Wise Men came to see baby Jesus at the cave stall in Bethlehem and brought him some presents.

The Spanish adopted this tradition and like getting presents and celebrating on January 6th.

What Happens In Spain On December 22nd?

December 22nd is the big day of the Christmas Lottery in Spain; the lucky winners are selected in the Royal Theatre in Madrid.

Everyone buys a ticket, and on December 22nd, the country watches whether they win the big fat price ‘El Gordo.’

What Are Christmas Traditions In Spain?

Spain’s most popular Christmas traditions are El Gordo (Loteria de Navidad), Cagatio in Catalonia, Roscon de Reyes cake, 12 Uvas for New Year, and Three Wise Men carrying presents.

WRAP-UP: Spanish Christmas

These are the best Spanish Christmas traditions and celebrations. They have some of the craziest and funniest traditions, and you need to experience them at least once in a lifetime. So, learn a few Spanish phrases, make some friends in Spain, and experience what Christmas really feels like in Spain. For me, it was one of the most unique Christmas I experienced.

If you have any questions or need a customized travel itinerary, contact me at info(at)voicesoftravel.com. I’ll gladly help you.

Happy Spanish Christmas Travels!

voices of travel about me photo

About the author: Nicoletta is a travel enthusiast and passionate language learner. While traveling, she loves to connect with locals using her language skills to learn about new cultures. Look for her skiing, hiking in the mountains, or exploring new destinations as she designs travel itineraries for her clients.

SPAIN: Interested in more articles about Spain?
Check out my Spain Travel Page:

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