Spanish Christmas Customs and Traditions. Christmas in Spain, Navidad, is a deeply religious festive celebration and begins on the 8th December with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This begins a week-long observance of the feast. This day is celebrated each year outside the Gothic cathedral in Seville with a ceremony called los Seises or the “dance of six, which is actually performed by 10 young men. It is a beautiful dance with exact movements and gestures. Homes and churches throughout Spain are decorated with evergreen, Lamps, flags and the all important nacimientos, cribs, in public places these often include life-sized figures. Nacimientos also include figures of the three wise men, much beloved by Spanish children, as they bring the presents on the 6th January, Epiphany. Market stalls in the towns groan under the displays of fruits, flowers, marzipans, sweets and gifts. On Christmas Eve, La Noche Buena, when the first star shows in the sky, oil lamps are lit throughout Spain and placed in the windows or on balconies along with the candles already burning there. In the town squares and in front of the churches there are bonfires burning and plays, called Las Pastores depict the shepherds coming to visit the baby Jesus. In the streets there are dancers dancing the Jota, a special Christmas dance, there is musical accompaniment with castanets and guitars. People play on swings, set up especially for this time, it is believed that by swinging they will encourage the sun to swing higher in the sky. The church bells ring out for Midnight mass, ”La Misa Del Gallo” (Rooster’s Mass) and families gather together to attend. There has been a strict 24 hour fast leading up to midnight mass and afterwards hurry home to enjoy the family feast. The dinner usually consists of Almond soup, ”Pavo Trufado de Navidad” (Christmasturkey with truffles), or another roast meat, red cabbage and pumpkin. Another traditional Christmas treat is turron, an almond delicacy. The festivities go on long into the night, the Spanish say that ”Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no es noche de dormir” (Tonight is the blessed night,and it is not meant for sleeping.) Christmas day is a quiet day spent with immediate family and family reunions, small gifts may also be exchanged today. On the eve of January the 6th, Epiphany, children believe that the Three Wise Men wander around the country on their donkeys. They leave straw in their shoes for the animals and hope that in the morning, when the straw has gone it will be replaced with presents for them. During the day there will be parades where sweets and cakes will be handed out to the children .
Portuguese Christmas Customs and Traditions. The focus of the Christmas celebrations in Portugal is the crib which depicts the birth of Jesus, which often contains elaborate figures of the holy family and the shepherds and the three wise men. Many families attend the Midnight Mass (called “Missa do Galo”) after which they will return home for the Christmas Eve dinner, ”Ceia de Natal”. , this normally consists of cod fish, potatoes and cabbage, there will also be a wonderful selection of cakes, biscuits and sweets on offer. In the morning there is the Christmas feast named “Consoda”, there is always an extra place set for ’alminhas a penar’ (“the souls of the dead”), this is believed to bring them good luck over the coming year. On the eve of the Epiphany, the 6th of January, children will fill their shoes with straw and carrots for the horses of the Three Wise Men in the hope that this will tempt the animals to them and then the straw will be replaced with presents.
Hungarian Christmas Customs and Traditions, In Hungary Advent signals the beginning of Christmas with the advent wreaths with the four candles to be lit on the four Sundays of advent. On the eve of St.Nicolaus on the 6th of December the children will leave out their shoes to be filled with fruit, nuts and small gifts from’Mikulás’. Christmas is a two-day holiday and is, in the main a family festival. The Christmas tree is not decorated until Holy Evening, Christmas Eve.The main Christmas meal, which is also eaten on Christmas eve, consists of fish and cabbage and a special kind of poppy bread called ‘Beigli’. The children believe that the angels bring and decorate the tree and the gifts. After the meal the angels will ring the bell signalling that the children may come to see what they have left for them. Midnight mass is very popular and is attended by the whole family after their evenings celebrations. Christmas day is usually spent quietly with the family.