Maria and Robin shared the stage and gave a colorful description of the Spanish traditions around the holiday.
The Christmas festivities begin on December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when people start to bring out the decorations. The streets are brightly lit with colorful lights, decorated trees and every store from the shoe store to the butcher store has a Nativity Scene in their front window that is unique.
Nativity Scene: Central to the Spanish Christmas tradition is the decoration and setting up of the Nativity Scene. The pieces that make up the Nativity Scene are hand-made beautifully crafted pieces handed down in families from generation to generation.
It is a time for families and friends to share time together and celebrate. Maria explained that every year many families drive into the countryside to gather fresh moss, leaves and ferns which they then use to decorate the Nativity Scene together in their homes.
The Three Kings: In Spain it is the Three Kings who bring the presents to the children. Kings Day is celebrated on January 5th. There is a parade. People dressed up as the Three Kings hand out sweets to excited children. They represent the three Kings in the Bible who bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus.
In the evening the children light a candle and the families read from the Bible. The children leave a well polished clean shoe under the tree to be filled with gifts by the Kings and a bowl of water for the camels. The children by now would have already written formal letters to the Three Kings telling them whether they have been ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and what they would like for Christmas.
The next day there is a large family lunch. Dessert is always El Roscon de Reyes. This is a ring shaped cake. Baked into the cake are two objects- a small figure of a king and a dry green bean. Once the cake is served everybody checks their portion in the hopes that they have the king and don’t have the bean. The person who finds the king in their cake is crowned king for the day and wears a crown. The person who finds the bean in their piece of cake must pay for the dinner!
New Years Eve Tradition: The Spanish ritual on New Year’s Eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. Las doce uvas de la suerte, or the 12 grapes of luck is a Spanish tradition that is supposed to bring luck each month of the upcoming year.
Maria and Robin described the fun and games that surround this activity as people all gather together in a public Plaza trying to swallow twelve grapes in exact timing to the twelve strokes to midnight.
During her two year stay in Madrid, Robin collected over 100 pieces of unique hand-made sheep figurines. She bought a few of her favorite pieces to show us.