From festive foods to Christmas eve celebrations and ringing in the New Year, Christmas time in Andalucia is something special. With some unique traditions and some well-known with an Andalucian twist, this time of year presents a great opportunity to head out and experience all their festivities. Working closely with our Spanish team in Polo Valley who are the experts in the area, we have selected Polo Valley’s top 6 Andalucian festive traditions.
1. Christmas Eve (Nochebuena)
The big event in these parts is Christmas Eve (Nochebuena), rather than Christmas Day, when a full-on late-night family meal is likely to feature ham and of course no Andalucian house is complete at Christmas without a pig leg sitting in the kitchen for some indulgent snacking. The towns will be very quiet on Christmas Eve as everything closes, so families can get together for the festive feast.
2. Cabalgata de Los Reyes Magos
Similar to Father Christmas flying around the world on his reindeers delivering presents to all the children. In Andalucia, the Magic Kings, harking back to the 3 King’s, travel around the world on camels delivering presents. Traditionally in Andalucia, this is done on the eve of Dia de Los Rayos which is January 5th. The big celebration that evening is Cablagata de los Reyes Magos which is a big procession through cities and towns. During the procession, ‘Kings’ and their assistants throw sweets into the crowd, this is the biggest event of the festive period for the Andalucian children.
3. Belén - The Nativity Scene
The nativity scene, ‘Belén’ in Spanish, is regarded as more important to have in your household over the festive period than a Christmas tree in Andalucia. Families nativity scenes are often a large collection of pieces that have been lovingly collected over the years. They are brought out at homes, schools, department stores and churches across the region of Andalucia at Christmas time. The Belén is regarded with such importance that often families will build entire structures in order to set up the whole town of Bethlehem for their nativity scene.
4. Festive food
The one staple in everyone's house in Andalucia at Christmas time is an entire leg of cured ham. The humblest homes might splurge on a Serrano ham whilst those more fortunate often opt for a leg of ‘Pata negra’ which some believe to be the best cured ham you can find. Over the festive period, platters are the dish of the day. With cured meats, cheeses, smoked salmon, pates and seafood beginning the feasts. More traditionally, roast suckling pig or sometimes lamb would be the main course, followed by slices of prime rib just in case you hadn’t quite had your fill of meat yet. Shelves are stocked full of sweet treats at Christmas time. Turrones, polverones, marzipan tarts and other pastries are all on offer and often banks, shops and other businesses will put out a plate of sweets and a bottle of anis for clients to enjoy over the festive period.
5. Christmas Cake
The Andalucian Christmas cake is called a ‘Roscón de Reyes’ which is a doughnut-shaped cake made of sweet bread dough, topped with candied fruits and sugar and often filled with whipping cream or custard. Hidden inside there is a coin and a dry bean. Whoever finds the coin is ‘king’ for the day and whoever is unlucky and finds the bean has to pay for the next year’s roscón.
6. New Year
As the same in most places, New Year is celebrated in Andalucia with a big firework display. However, slightly different from the rest of the world, they mark the start of the New Year by eating 12 grapes just before midnight strikes. The tradition is that you have to eat all 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds of the year. If you eat them in time it is believed you will have good luck for the rest of the year. To make sure you can finish the 12 in time and secure your year of good luck, shops sell ready peeled and stoned grapes, especially for the New Year tradition.
We have two fantastic festive packages at Polo Valley where you can experience some of these quirky Andalucian traditions, call us on 020 8246 5300 or enquire online and find out more.