Christmas in Spain. A concise guide for 2023

By Glossy Magazine

Christmas in Spain flamenco dancers

Christmas in Spain. A concise guide for 2023

Christmas in Spain flamenco dancers

Visiting Spain over the festive period means that you’ll be in for a treat. 

From centuries-old traditions to ancient, picturesque towns glistening in soft winter sunshine, there’s plenty to discover both day and night. Warm Mediterranean hospitality and a lively culture of celebration combine to make spending Christmas in Spain something cherished by anyone lucky enough to experience it.

If you’re thinking of heading on a winter break this year, you won’t be disappointed by the quintessentially immersive Spanish Christmas. Get ready to play games, feast, and dance the nights away with our step-by-step guide to the magic of Christmas in Spain.

A guide to your first Spanish Christmas

Explore the Christmas markets

Kick off your Spanish winter adventure by heading down to the enchanting Christmas markets. In the quaint and charming streets, town squares and historic districts, you’ll find that traditional markets are integral to the celebration.

Browse ornately decorated stalls with some of the most intriguing products on display. From handmade artisan crafts to classic gift ideas, there’s truly something for everyone. Of course, the best part about the markets might just be the decadent festive treats, including traditional Spanish favourites like turron and polvorones

Tourist hotspots like Barcelona and Valencia make popular choices, but it’s important not to overlook some of Spain’s lesser-known locations, like Ronda, Girona, or Málaga, which seamlessly blend modern culture with an impressive archaic legacy. Wherever you head in Spain, you’re sure to spend a warm Christmas surrounded by plenty of dazzling lights and sensational markets.

Know the religious traditions

Spanish people celebrate Christmas differently, so it’s certainly worth appreciating the local traditions and rituals. Since there’s no Santa in Spain, Christmas isn’t limited to just the 25th of December. Different regions have their own different versions of the classic figure:

  • Families in Catalonia eagerly await Tió de Nadal, a hollow log that’s gradually brought to life from the 8th of December through being ‘fed’ with sweer treats. On Christmas Day, everyone whacks the log, and then the treats pour out.
  • In the Basque region, young children wait for Olentzero, a scruffy-looking rotund chap smoking a pipe. He starts his gift-giving journey on the 23rd of December.
  • The Galician version of Father Christmas is El Apalpador, a mystical coal miner who only gives children gifts if they’ve been eating all their food – including the vegetables.

Midnight Mass, known as La Misa del Gallo, is an important function for any religious family in Spain. In many areas, ornate churches define the height of the season and on Christmas Eve, the cultural significance is even clearer. Spanish communities also take the nativity scene (Belén) fairly seriously, so it’s worth taking the time to admire and ponder any displays you see in public.

Try exquisite food and drink

While you’re in Spain, it’s a must to indulge in the rich variety of local cuisine. Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or prefer savoury snacks, the decadent tapestry on offer in every Spanish reason is sure to delight your senses.

Traditional Spanish festive meals include succulent, slow-roasted lamb and seafood delicacies like bacalao, which is salted cod. In the Castile and León region, many households opt for a whole roast suckling pig known as conchinillo, which is roasted until crispy and golden brown and then placed as the centrepiece, aptly decorated with fauna and fresh vegetables.

For dessert, there’s always a classic choice like churros dipped in hot chocolate. For something old-fashioned, the twisted roll of kings or Roscón de Reyes is a sweet, glazed brioche-type bread that goes down delightfully with a tipple. Join the locals in toasting cava, Spain’s resident sparkling wine, as you take part in these joyous culinary celebrations.

Wonder at the Christmas lights

Spanish towns and cities come alive at night when it’s nearly Christmas. 

Spectacular lights displays and matching decorations transform the streets into kaleidoscopic views of dazzling colours, patterns, and festive décor. No matter which destination you choose, visiting Spain in the lead-up to Christmas is guaranteed to get you closer to a mesmerising backdrop on each new adventure.

In Madrid, the Puerta del Sol square is home to the Plaza Mayor Christmas Market, one of the city’s most famous festive attractions. In Valencia, the Christmas spirit can also be witnessed on the shores, with some charming decorations on the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, an important city square just a stone’s throw from the sea.

Watch festive performances

Christmas is truly a season for celebration in Spain, so why not join in? You can get a glimpse of the Spanish passion for the arts at any time of year, but it’s even more vibrant closer to Christmas. 

In almost every large town and city, you’ll find plenty of live Flamenco performances and one-off festive performances that illuminate the streets. From the best theatres in Spain to intimate venues in small cities like Malaga, it’s worth checking the events calendar before your visit to make sure you don’t miss out on any ticketed events. Just don’t forget to arrange a direct transfer from Malaga airport to ensure a smooth and speedy arrival.

With so much on offer throughout the festive period, Spain makes a wonderful choice for people of all ages. Whether you head there with your partner or a young family, you’ll have the opportunity to try new delicacies, see incredible lights displays, and get involved with the best local festivities.