SPAIN

Christmas and St Stephen’s Day are officially recognized holidays in Spain. In most of Spain, the Christmas period, referred to as “Navidad”, lasts from Christmas Eve referred to as “Nochebuena” or “the Good Night.” on December 24 to Epiphany on January 6. Many homes and most churches display a Nativity scene, a Christmas tree, or both. The pesebre (nativity scene) is present in many homes, schools and stores. On the 26th, Sant Esteve (Saint Stephen) is celebrated with a family gathering.
A large family dinner is celebrated on Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) and can last until 6 o’clock in the morning. There is a wide variety of typical foods one might find on plates across Spain on this particular night, and each region has its own distinct specialties. It is particularly common, however, to start the meal with a seafood dish such as prawns or salmon, followed by a bowl of hot, homemade soup. The main meal will commonly consist of roast lamb, or seafood, such as cod or shellfish. For dessert, there is quite a spread of delicacies, among them are turrón, a dessert made of honey, egg and almonds that is Arabic in origin. Special dishes and desserts include Mariscos y Pescado (shellfish and fish), marzipan, Pavo Trufado de Navidad (turkey with truffles), and polvorones (shortbread made of almonds, flour and sugar).

Even though there is still the traditional Misa del Gallo at midnight, few Spaniards continue to follow the old custom of attending. Children usually receive one or two presents on Christmas Day (December 25), brought by “Papá Noel” (Father Noel), which is a non-traditional imitation of the American Santa Claus, but in some regions there are other more traditional characters, for example, the Olentzero in the Basque Country. There is a special Christmas dance called the Jota which has been performed for centuries in Spain during Christmas.

On December 31 (Nochevieja) there is also a large family feast. Some young people go out in “cotillón”, a very big feast in bars and pubs and the drink and dance until January 1 morning, when they have churros with chocolate for breakfast. On January 5 a huge parade (La Cabalgata or cavalcade) welcomes the Three Kings to the city. Children put their shoes in the window on January 5 in the hope that the Three Wise Men will deliver them presents.

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