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Christmas In Spain

Christmas in Spain is a deeply religious holiday festival and the Virgin Mary is the country's patron saint. The Christmas season officially begins December 8, the feast of the "Immaculate Conception". It is the celebration that happens each year in front of the great Gothic cathedral in Seville with a ceremony called Los Seises

or the "dance of six", which is a series of precise movements and gestures and is said to be quite moving and graceful.

Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena or "the Good Night." It is a time for family members to come together to rejoice and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present in nearly every home. A traditional Christmas treat is turron, a kind of almond candy. The meal is 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 merrymaking continues through the early hours of the morning.

December 28 is celebrated as the feast of the Holy Innocents. Young boys of a town or village light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders the townspeople to perform civic chores such as sweeping the streets.

As far as the gift-giving ceremony is concerned, 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. The three Wise men are seen everywhere in Spain at Christmas, visiting hospitals, orphanages, etc. The men who dress up in various "Wise men" garments are from all walks of life. The legend tells of the three Wise men traveling through the country on their way to Bethlehem. To properly receive them, the children fill their shoes with straw on Epiphany Eve. For their efforts, they find their shoes filled with presents the following (Epiphany) morning. January 6th, Epiphany is declared with parades in various cities where candy and cakes are distributed to groups of children.

In Spain, the Christmas holiday season is generally full of the usual Christmas festivities, but there is one tradition that is peculiar to Spain. The tradition named Hogueras (bonfires), originated long before Christmas itself. It is the observance of the winter zenith, the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. It is characterized by people jumping over fires, which is symbolic protection against illness. This fire jumping custom can be seen primarily in Granada and Jaen.

The more common traditions include 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. Very often, as the Christmas Eve stars appear in the heavens, tiny oil lamps are lighted, warming village windows. The crowds at the Christmas market become lesser as shoppers return to prepare for the evening meal.

The Christmas Eve amusement 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 described as performing the Mass in "one pure voice."

Christmas Day is spent at church, at feasts and in more merry-making. A custom peculiar to Spain is that of "swinging." Swings are set up throughout the courtyards and young people swing to the rhythm of songs and laughter.

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