Torremolinos Info - Christmas

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Christmas run-up

Traditionally Christmas is celebrated quite differently to the UK, though the ex-pats are slowly having an effect.
Christmas really starts at the beginning of December even though some shops will have been selling Christmas goods for a few weeks. Shops are not as bad as in the UK for this.
The 6th and 8th of December are both public holidays and it is about this time that the Christmas tree and other festive lights are switched on. It is also about this time that the Christmas market starts trading.
In Torremolinos, like much of Spain, the tree is artificial and covered in lights. The market is rather low key and really only sells trinkets, though there is normally a bar included that will be selling mulled wine.
Christmas Tree


By now the shops will be selling traditional sweets but more of these further down. Very few shops will be selling Christmas cards as the Spanish don't normally use them. Most likely sources are Chinese shops, tobacconists and Deals.

Belén

There is always a Belén at the Town Hall. The word means Bethlehem but here it is a nativity scene. These are popular throughout Spain and are much bigger and more complex than in the UK. The one here has some 250 figures with many that are animated. A common feature is to include a figure having a poo, a "caganer". This may be one of the shepherds or it may be a representation of a politician or other famous person.

El Gordo

The next big event is the lottery draw on 22nd December. This is generally known as "El Gordo", the fat one, although this is really the name of the main prize in all lotteries. It has been running since 1812 and is considered to be the biggest one in the world with total prizes of over two billion euros (in 2017) and a first prize of over 700 million euros.
However no one person wins the main prize. Tickets are about 200 € and so it is normal to buy a décimo or tenth for 20 €. Many series of tickets are produced so there will normally be hundreds of people with a ticket for the first prize of about 4,000,000 € (in 2018).
The draw is always televised and is unusual in that school children sing the number on each ball as it arrives. The whole thing takes several hours.

Christmas

The main Christmas meal is held on Christmas eve (Nochebuena), when a whole extended family will meet at one family member's house. The first course is commonly fish based and the main course may be lamb, suckling pig, duck, kid or fish. Cava is often served after dessert and may be followed by traditional festive sweets. Turkey and spouts rarely appear.
This means that many shops and bars close early, though ones owned by non-Spanish may work as normal.
Christmas day is not special and many bars are open, though later in the morning than usual, and buses and trains are operating on a Sunday service.
Boxing day has no meaning in Spain and it is just a normal working day.

April Fool

The 28th December is called the Day of the Holy Innocents and is in memory of the babies killed under Herod's orders in an attempt to ensure that Jesus was dead. But Jesus didn't die and so, in a sense, the joke was on Herod. Now this day is just like April 1st in the UK. When someone catches you out they shout, "¡Inocente, inocente!".

El Niño

It's back to the lottery shop now for a ticket for El Niño. This is drawn on 6th January. It is similar to El Gordo with décimos at 20 €.

New Year's Eve

The shops and many bars, or at least the Spanish owned ones, shut early and early evening you may find the streets deserted. This is becuase it is traditional to have a family meal together and then to go out much later than in the UK to celebrate the New Year. There will be a marquee in Nogalera square with music and lots of revelry going on from about 11pm to 6am.
A tradition that you may not have seen (for good reason) is the wearing of something red for good luck. It is normally a piece of underwear as it should never be on show.
As midnight strikes it is the tradition to eat twelve grapes, one each time the clock chimes. This is said to give good luck for the coming year. It is a tradition that is easy to say but quite difficult to do. It is said that this tradition started in 1909 when winemakers gave away grapes because of an excess of the harvest.

Three Kings

On 5th January there is the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos or the parade of the three kings. There are many floats often with cartoon characters and normally some real camels. The floats are staffed partly by children who throw sweets (several tonnes) to the children waiting at the side with open carrier bags and upturned umbrellas to ensure a good catch.

Sweets

You will find all sorts of bars labelled turrón in the shops. It is a type of nougat made with honey, egg whites and almonds. It is probably related to halva and brought to Spain by the Moors. Nowadays there are many varieties: chocolate with puffed rice or whole almonds; all kinds of chocolate pralines, with or without liquor, candied fruits or whole nuts; fruit pralines, etc. Traditionally there are two main varieties, a hard type from Alicante and a soft one from Jijona. You will also find chocolate bars with nuts called "Turrón de chocolate".
Turrón


A polvorón (From polvo, the Spanish word for dust) is a very crumbly soft type of shortbread. They are made of flour, sugar, milk, and nuts (especially almonds) though many other flavours exist. While available in other parts of Spain, they are a speciality of Andalusia, where there are some 70 factories.
Polveron


Mantecado are similar to polverones but contain pig fat (manteca is lard). They date back to the sixteenth century.
Mantecado


Pestiño This is a piece of dough, deep fried in olive oil and glazed with honey or sugar.
Pestiño


Roscón de Reyes or ring of the kings. This is a large ring shaped cake decorated with glacé fruits that represent the jewels on the kings' crowns. It is traditionally eaten on 6th January. It contains a small figurine and whoever gets it is crowned "king" or "queen" of the celebrations.
Roscón de Reyes




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Last updated 31st May 2019