Happy Christmas or Feliz Navidad, as they say in Spain, is truly the happiest time of the year for one and all.
In Spain Christmas is never restricted to a day. Festivities begin with the beginning of winter with Hogureras when people jump over bonfires as a symbol of protection against future illness, and continue on until the middle of January. Midnight on Christmas Eve is marked with the ringing of the Cathedral bells that declare the time for La Misa Del Gallo or The Mass of the Rooster. But probably the most popular holiday tradition in Spain, as in the rest of the world, is decoration and gift giving. In Spain the gift giver is not Santa but The Three Wise Men. On the fifth of January the Wise Men travel through the town leaving gifts in the shoes of little children. The next day is reserved for the distribution of cakes and candy. Gifts and decorations and cakes and candies require Markets. Spain has an abundance of little Christmas markets all over the country but the some of the best Christmas Markets in Spain are the The Plaza Mayor Market in Madrid, the Christmas Market in Seville, the Santa Lucia Market in Barcelona and Granada’s traditional Christmas Market.
Madrid Christmas Market
The capital city of Spain, Madrid, celebrates Christmas in grand style. Lights all over the city bringing the sparkling stars down from the sky into touchable distance, little markets everywhere selling Christmas knick-knacks, nativity scenes gracing the entrance of not just churches and museums but of most homes bring the season alive.
The largest market in Madrid is the annual Christmas market at the The Plaza Mayor. The Plaza Mayor is the largest square in Madrid and dates back to the sixteenth century. It is a tourist destination all through the year with lovely restaurants and pubs. Located in the heart of the city, it is the ideal location for the annual event held here. At this time of the year The Plaza Mayor stops being just a tourist attraction and becomes the most visited spot for locals too. The market begins some time in the middle of December and continues up to the thirty first. More than a hundred stalls line up in the square to sell all things related to Christmas. The market itself is almost a hundred and fifty years old. Vendors sell Christmas trees, Christmas tree decorations, ornate statues, materials needed to make a Belén, the Spanish name for a nativity scene. The nativity scene is as essential a symbol for the Spanish as the Christmas tree. Until this year (2008) vendors selling wigs and fancy costumes as well as joke shop items were also allowed to set up shop here. Locals use these costumes and wigs to dress up on the twenty eighth of December when the Spanish celebrate their Fools Day. The city council, in order to keep the ambience exclusively Christmas-like, has relocated these stalls, with their carnival atmosphere, to the nearby Santa Cruz square.
Seville Christmas Market
Situated in the province of Seville, the city of Seville is the capital of Andalusia. It is widely regarded as Southern Spain’s cultural, artistic and financial capital. This two thousand year old city with some of the largest cathedrals dating back to the fifteenth century has a long Christian history. And the Seville Christmas Market celebrates this history and the traditions associated with Christmas. The city of Seville puts up a fantastic show for everyone, tourists and locals included. The Seville Christmas market sells all that is needed to create a magical Christmas. Snow and cold weather does not seem to be able to dampen the magic of the season one bit. In addition to Christmas decorations and all things needed to recreate the nativity scene, makeshift shops also sell breads and cakes and spirits without which any celebration would be incomplete.
Barcelona Christmas Market
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. Legend has it that the city was founded four hundred years before the city of Rome. With a Mediterranean climate, winters in Barcelona are not as cold as most other European cities. The most vibrant example of Spanish culture in the city is the Feria de Santa Lucia the Christmas market that sets up every year at the Plaza de la Catadreal. Catalonia has its own Christmas symbols like the cagatió, which is a log that has a face painted on it and a red hat on its head, and the caganer, a traditional figure dressed up in different costumes, that adorns the symbolic crib in all Christmas decorations. All these things, along with the more popular Christmas symbols are available at the Santa Lucia Christmas market. There are myriad novel trinkets to use as Christmas presents on sale too.
Granada Christmas Market
Situated at the meeting point of three rivers at the foot of Sierra Nevada is the city of Granada. During the Christmas season, other than lights and Christmas trees, there are abundant displays of the nativity scene. So elaborate are the recreations that many of them include live actors and real animals. The Christmas market here sells candles, flowers, unique handmade gifts and sweets in addition to all the regular typically Spanish Christmas decorations.
With such a splendid atmosphere all over the country the Christmas Markets in Spain bring alive the Christmas spirit in all those who wander into any of these marketplaces.
Photo of Christmas in Madrid, Spain originally posted by beamillion