How do they celebrate Christmas in Spain? It’s all going to be new to us, so we thought we would share the experience along the way. December 8th was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrating the conception of the Virgin Mary. It was also the official start to the season of la Navidad, as Christmas is called in Spain.
The air has turned colder, but Valenciano’s continue to live their lives outdoors despite the weather. Terraces remain open, with diners bundling up in puffy coats and huddling under heaters. The streets are glistening and Valencia is buzzing with holiday cheer.
An enormous Christmas tree decorates the Plaza Ayuntamiento, where children ride a carousel and ice skate under the lights.
Vendors sell roasted chestnuts and ears of corn on street corners throughout the city. Nothing warms your hands on a cold evening like a paper cone of hot chestnuts.
Christmas markets are popping up throughout the city, selling gifts and traditional Christmas sweets like Turrón – a nougat confection usually made of honey, sugar, eggs and almonds that has been around the Iberian peninsula since at least the 15th century. Each day it seems I hear about another traditional candy or pastry for the holidays. We have a lot of sweets to eat over the next few weeks. For the sake of research, of course.
Instead of Christmas trees, many families decorate their home with nativity scenes, called belenes. Shops and stands at the Christmas markets sell figurines of baby Jesus, the Three Kings, and all the other participants of the nativity. Extravagant belenes can be found around the city, like these in the Mercado Colon and the life size belen at the Plaza de la Reina. If you can elbow your way through the crowd, there is a large nativity village set up in the Mercado Central.
We will not have a white Christmas, but Restaurante Nederland 1814 attempted a solution by blowing bubble snow onto the terrace and serving glasses of cava and vermouth to curious passersby (that would be us).
We’ve been told that it doesn’t snow in Valencia, but you never know what you are going to run into around the next corner. That’s the most exciting part of living in a city like Valencia. Every stroll through the streets can yield a surprise. Let the festivities begin!