Read more about the Christmas in Spain. The Spanish Christmas Day or Noche Buena is a fantastic celebration for the Spaniards.
Christmas in Spain is full of the usual Christmas festivities, but there is one tradition, not at all common elsewhere. Named "Hogueras" (bonfires), this tradition originated long before Christmas itself. It is the observance of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. It is characterized by people jumping over fires as a symbolic protection against illness. This fire-jumping can be seen primarily in Granada and Jaen.
The more common traditions include incredibly elaborate "Nacimiento" (nativity scenes), Christmas trees, and remarkable Christmas markets scattered among villages and cities with piles of fruits, flowers, marzipan and other sweets, candles, decorations and hand-made Christmas gifts. Often, as the Christmas Eve stars appear in the heavens, tiny oil lamps are lighted, warming village windows. The crowds at the Christmas market thin as shoppers return to prepare for the coming meal. The Spanish Christmas Eve gaiety is interrupted at midnight by the ringing of bells calling the families to "La Misa Del Gallo" (The Mass of the Rooster). The most beautiful of these candlelight services is held at the monastery of Montserrat, high in the mountain near Barcelona, which is highlighted by a boy's choir describes as performing the Mass in "one pure voice."
Spanish Christmas dinner is never eaten until after midnight. It is a family feast, and often highlighted with "Pavo Trufado de Navidad" (Christmas turkey with truffles; truffles are a mushroom-like delicacy found underground). After the meal, family members gather around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols and hymns of Christendom. The rejoicing continues through the wee hours of the morning. An old Spanish verse says...
"Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no es noche de dormir" (This is the goodnight, therefore it is not meant for sleep.)
Christmas Day in Spain is spent at church, at feasts and in more merry-making. A custom peculiar to Spain is that of "swinging." Sings are set up throughout the courtyards and young people swing to the accompaniment of songs and laughter.
It is not Santa who comes to Spain bearing gifts, but the Three Wise Men. The Spanish Christmas continues for a few weeks after Dec. 25th. On the Eve of Epiphany, January 5th, children place their shoes on the doorstep, and in the secret of the night, the Three Wise Men pass leaving gifts. January 6th, Epiphany is heralded with parades in various cities where candy and cakes are distributed to throngs of children.