Christmas in Valencia

By 16 diciembre, 2013Blog, Discovering Valencia

Curiosities of some Christmas traditions in Spain

If you are studying Spanish in Valencia, there are many things you should know in order to act as a Spaniard in Christmas time. Take a look at some of our traditions and take part of them!

In order to celebrate Christmas as Spaniards do, you should know more about some of our most particular traditions. Among others, you should know the importance of playing the Lottery, of eating Nougat and 12 grapes and of course, of writing a letter to the Three Wise Men.

The Lottery:
The National Lottery is one of the most popular gambling games in Spain and it offers one of the most important distributed prizes. The lottery has an ancient tradition and is deeply rooted in Spanish society.
From the first moment, the children of San Ildefonso were in charge of singing the winning lottery number. Currently, every December 22nd there is a Christmas special draw “El Gordo”, and its prize is worth 4 million euros. An interesting fact is that until 2012 “El Gordo” was tax free. Currently, it is not any more.
We encourage you to watch the awarded short film “La Suerte” by Mario Camus to understand better the impact that the lottery has on our country. And of course, why not buy one lottery ticket?
But for those who don’t win anything that day, do not worry. On January 6th you will have one more opportunity in the Lottery “El Niño”.
Good Luck!

The Nougat:
Most scientists have pointed out that the origin of the nougat comes from the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs brought this dessert to the Mediterranean shores, in particular Spain and Italy. The Spanish version was born in the province of Alicante around the fifteenth century.
The habit of enjoying Christmas nougat was spread throughout Spain in the sixteenth century, at least among the more affluent sectors of society.
In Jijona, there is a legend that tells us the story of how nougat was originated:

“At that time, the King married a Scandinavian princess, so it had to come to this country leaving behind his cold country. The princess was very sad not to be able to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the country full of perpetual snow. The king, desperate to see the new queen decayed, to avoid sadness, had the idea of planting all around its territories and around the castle, thousands of almond trees. Thus, when the almond trees flourished, the landscape planted white hues, so that all looked snowy and the princess regained their happiness. The people of Jijona, from that time, learned to reap the fruits of the almond and treat them, and therefore produced the first samples of nougat and derivatives. ”

Grapes:
The tradition of eating 12 grapes in The New Year´s Eve dates back to the early twentieth century. This custom is not due to religious or cultural reasons. In the year 1909 grape harvesters had a great production of this fruit and in order to get rid of it, invented the ritual of taking 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck. You should take 12 grapes coinciding with the 12 bell strokes that lead to the New Year.
But … careful not to choke!

The Day of the Three Wise Men:
January 6th marks the day of the Three Wise Men. To celebrate a good day you must have completed the following steps:
1. To behave well throughout the year.
2. To write an honest letter explaining how you behaved throughout the year.
3. To send or to deliver the letter to The Three Wise Men. You can give it to any of the three of them: Melchor, Gaspar or Baltasar.
4. To go and welcome the Three Wise Men at their parade (We recommend visiting the Parade of Alcoy, the oldest in Spain and declared national tourist interest. It is celebrated on January 5th. You can also visit the parade at the neighborhood El Cabañal. It is very authentic because the Kings do not use camels, instead they arrive in spectacular cars).
5. To eat dinner soon and to eat Roscón (typical dessert that is eaten that day only).
6. To go to sleep soon and leave all well prepared: a clean shoe (very important that it is clean because the Kings will leave the gifts inside it) and of course food and water for the Kings and their camels. They come from very far away and they are exhausted.
7. In the morning, the day has arrived and we can enjoy the gifts. But if someone has not behaved well, they will receive coal (don´t worry, it is not real coal, it is candy that looks exactly as coal. It´s delicious!).
Good Luck!

Useful vocabulary and expressions for Christmas:

Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas)
Me ha tocado El Gordo (I have won the Lottery)
Ha caído el Gordo (They have won the Lottery)
Felices Fiestas (happy Holidays)
Feliz Año (Happy New Year)
Que te traigan muchas cosas los Reyes (I hope the Three Wise Men will bring you many gifts)
Compra un décimo (Buy a lottery ticket)
Nochevieja (New Year´s Eve)
Nochebuena (December 24th)
Navidad (December 25th)
Año Nuevo (January 1st)

¡Soleã Spanish School os desea una Feliz Navidad y un Próspero Año Nuevo!