Old and New Christmas Traditions

A friend of mine buys all her Christmas shopping and gets the year’s birthday presents done in the January sales, wraps them up and puts them away – Job Done.

I always enjoyed the buzz of last minute shopping in the UK, it seemed to add to the festive feeling, whilst finding that unique present to fit a particular person.

Here in Spain, things are a little different, as we have Navidad – Christmas the 25th, and January the 6th, el dia de los Reyes – the three Kings. Los Reyes Magos bring presents for all the children.

The three kings use to be the main event here on the Costa Blanca, but this gives the children little time to enjoy and play with their new toys as they have to be back at school the next day, so things are swaying more to Christmas for the bulk of their presents.

Like other traditions at this time of year it’s not just about gift giving – bring out the FOOD.

Keeping the traditions of my roots

A few years ago before digital cameras I collected the film cartridges from holidays or family events, anything where the camera was needed.

I would bunch them up and throw them in a glass to be forgotten. When Christmas eve came around, I would take them to be developed so the family could look back on the year with surprise and have a laugh.

Nowadays the digital stills and video can be made into a fun presentation and viewed on the screen but it’s not quite the same.

Christmas eve is buzzing with people often dropping in. I prefer to stay indoors and get up early for Christmas day as we have our little rituals, from present opening in the morning, breakfast, and then prep for the big dinner, and I always have some Dvd’s that I had put on my Papa Noel (Santa’s) list to kick back and watch in the afternoon.

There are a lot of northern European influences from the large Expat communities on the Costa Blanca and from North American TV programs, and the internet.

Some say the real Christmas starts on December 22. This day generates a massive flurry of excitement and millions look forward to it for months, I’m referring to the Spanish National Lottery, said to be the largest in the world.

Christmas is a nostalgic time of the year and for me it holds a lot of good memories as a child living in the UK. So I like to do things the way my parents did, for most of the time I managed it without too much resistance from my now Spanish daughter and my Spanish friends, as their big event is the evening of the 5th and the 6th of January.

It’s all about the sweets

Children take to the street and go house to house singing carols with shopping bags at hand hoping to fill them with sweets.

On the 5th of January towns have parades and floats, local dance schools dress up in costumes and dance their routines to music and the children stand on the kerbside again with shopping bags in hand as people throw sweets from the floats. The precession or three Kings Cavalcade head towards the local Church followed by the spectates.

Once inside the Church the three kings sit down and the children queue to receive their gifts, each child’s parent hand the Kings their gifts and they in turn give them to the children.

Afterwards, the children go home and eat their sweets whilst the parents prepare for the big day. Children leave shoes filled with carrots and straw for the camels outside the home and in the morning presents are left for them by the Magi – the three kings.

By Mark Shearman

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