The celebrations of Christmas are, without any doubt, one of the most important of Catalonia, being the time of the year in which the whole family gets together. As happens in many places of the world these are days to share, but besides that, in Catalonia, some traditional customs of the region are followed, necessary to understand how Christmas in Barcelona is being celebrated.
(24th of December)
This is one of the magic nights of the year and one of the most relevant during Christmas, where the figure of Tió is the main character. Formerly the tree was considered as a wealth source to serve like raw material for the elaboration of tools, besides being the source of the fire. For this reason, the night of the 24 of December a fantastic and magical animal brings the first gifts of Christmas. Whipping it with force, the blanket that covers its body rises and candies or gifts are taken out. Another of the attractions also destined the children, in this case to obtain some extra money or “aguinaldo”, is to visit the houses of the neighbourhood singing “villancicos”, by that they normally receive some kind of reward. The same night, to celebrate the birth of Jesus, some families go to the “Mass of the rooster”, at twelve o'clock at night. Traditionally one thinks that this animal was the first in notifying the arrival of Jesus to the world and the responsible for announcing it.
(25th of December)
In the Christian calendar this is the most important day of the year, because of the birth of Jesus. In Catalonia it is a custom to celebrate a great family dinner were the dishes by excellence are “Carn d´olla and Escudella”. Other necessities are the cava, the dry fruits, the nougat called “turrón” and the sugar cookies called “polvorones”.
Decorating the homes you will find the custom of having a Christmas tree and the crib (representing the birth of Jesus), which in the case of Catalonia incorporates to an exclusive figure of the region: “el caganer”. It’s about a typical catalan farmer who appears bent in the entry of Bethlehem and with the trousers descended on excrement in the shape of a spiral. The tradition says that its action helps to improve and to enrich the Earth, the reason why it brings good luck and happiness.
If you stroll along the streets of Barcelona, you will surely find more than one crib exposed in sight of the pedestrians and in the square of the Cathedral you will be able to acquire a great quantity of small figures and decorations of Christmas.
San Esteban Day
(26 of December)
This day is in a certain way the continuation of the 1st Christmas Day. Once again an abundant dinner is being made and it lasts until the beginning of the night, although after the accumulated fatigue it is advisable to go to sleep early.
New Years Eve (31st of December)
In this magic night it is a custom to eat twelve grapes, one for each stir before midnight, tradition that is being said to bring luck for next year. Nevertheless, this custom started at the beginning of the 20th century and arises, surprisingly, by economic motives.
In the New Years Eve of 1909 the harvesters were able to get rid of the excessive of the season inventing this rite. At the vigil of New Year ones also think that using underclothes of red colour will bring you good luck in love, which is possibly to experience this same night at one of the parties that are being organized in some locals in Barcelona after twelve o’clock at night. To the youngest of the house it is being explained the legend of the “Man of the noses”, a fantasy figure that has as many noses as the year has days, although only the last one remains on the day of 31st.
Cavalcade of the Magician Kings
(5th of January)
Although, without any doubt the children are the ones to mostly enjoy these dates, it is in the cavalcade of the East Magicians Kings where their happiness is most visible.
In the centre of most of the catalan towns and cities whole families gather to receive the arrival of the decorated vehicles of the parade that brings these geniuses of the youngest. The protagonists of this festivity, the children, deliver its letters asking for the gifts that they desire to receive the following day (are accustomed to be toys) and they continue to the delegation with Chinese lanterns that illuminate the whole route. The Magician Kings, from their vehicles, launch caramels to the crowd of helping knights.
The following day they open the gifts that the Kings from the East have left during the night. After the last Christmas dinner, they eat “Tortell de Reis” which has one hidden bean in it. The person who finds the bean is named “the representative of the Magicians Kings” during the festivity, which puts an end to the Christmas for another year.
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