In Spain, Christmas is quite festive. The festival season starts with the feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th of December, which is held annually in front of the great Gothic cathedral in Seville. The ceremony and celebrations on this day are known as 'los Seises' or the 'dance of six.' However, the ritual dance performance has precise movements and gestures and is performed by ten boys that are decked in elaborate costumes. On Christmas Eve known as 'Nochebuena' or 'the Good Night', tiny oil lamps are lit in all the houses with the appearance of the stars in the sky. There is a festive Christmas dinner for family members who gather around the Nativity scenes in their homes after the Midnight Mass.
Traditional Spanish Christmas treat is Turron, almond candy. After the
dinner, people dance on streets. The special Christmas dance of Spain is
called 'Jota' and it is said that the lyrics and music on which it is
performed is centuries old. Musical instruments such as guitars and
castanets accompany Jota. Manger scenes are decorated in cathedrals and
churches as well as homes. They often use carved figures and families
gather around the manger during before Christmas to sing carols and
children play tambourines and dance. Cows receive special honor in
Spain, as Spanish people believe that the cow in the stable where Mary
gave birth to Jesus, breathed on the baby to keep him warm. Spanish
Christmas is very religious.
The patron saint of the country is Virgin Mary. Swing sets are
especially set up for Christmas and it is believed that swinging at
solstice time evokes an ancient desire in the sun to 'swing' higher in
the sky. On 28th of December, there is the feast of the Holy Innocents.
Young boys light bonfires and one is appointed the mayor for the day,
who orders all the people of the town or village to perform civic chores
such as sweeping the streets.
Any refusals warrant fines, which are used to pay for Christmas
celebrations. Spanish children receive gifts on 6th of January by the
Three Wise Men. On the previous evening, they leave their shoes outside
and fill them with straw or barley and carrots for their camels and
horses and find that it is gone by the morning and are replaced by
presents for them instead. Shoes may be kept in doorways, windowsills or
balconies, where the Wise Men can find them easily.
Read about Christmas and its traditions in Spain and Spanish Christmas customs.