Christmas in Spain remains a deeply religious holiday with families focused upon Spain's patron saint, the Virgin Mary, and the birth of Christ. The season officially begins on Dec. 8, with the feast of the Immaculate Conception and continues through Epiphany on Jan. 6.
For thousands of years, the Spanish celebrated the beginning of winter with a tradition known as Hogueras. Similar to the Northern European Yuletide celebration, Spaniards jumped over a fire as symbolic protection from winter illnesses.
After Christianity was introduced to Spain in the 1st century, Spanish culture and Roman Catholicism became firmly linked. Families replaced pagan tributes and traditions with shrines honoring the Virgin Mary and nativity scenes.
While Spanish children know of Santa Claus, they receive gifts from the Three Wise Men who come on Jan. 5, the eve of Epiphany.
While the modern Spanish Christmas remains strongly Catholic, some traditions hint at Spain's pagan past. Spaniards construct special swing sets for children on Christmas Eve and urge them to play on them; this motion recalls the ancient traditions of urging the sun to "swing" higher into the sky.
On Dec. 28, the Spanish celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents. A young boy in the town or village acts as the mayor and orders residents to perform various chores such as scrubbing the streets. Those who refuse these orders pay fines to the children.
- Photo Credit icpjones/Flickr
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