by Mardi Ballou
Before becoming the title of a very upbeat song by Jose Feliciano, “Feliz Navidad” inspired smiles of joy as the traditional Spanish equivalent of the English Merry Christmas. The greeting expressed by Spanish speakers on several continents rings out across many time zones during this festive time.
When we can take a moment to sit and chill during this hectic time, isn’t it fun to explore some of the different ways Christmas is celebrated around the world? I really got into researching Christmas in Spain for my contemporary Christmas ménage novella from Ellora’s Cave called Sherry Amor—and can’t wait to write another Christmas story set in another country so I have an excuse to research more customs. Here are a few things I learned about Christmas in Spain.
Christmas is a very big, important festive holiday in Spain—one based on sharing traditions with loved ones. In the days leading up to Christmas, Nativity scenes—called “Belen” from the Spanish word for Bethlehem—appear in many churches and homes. It’s a time filled with the music of the season.
The Spanish name for Christmas Eve, “Nochebuena”, means “Goodnight”, and is one of the most important times in the year for people to come together and share a meal. This is a night when most restaurants and bars are closed so people are encouraged to be home. The typical meal may start with prawns and have suckling pig, seafood, fowl or roast lamb as the main course. Turron, a special treat, is a nougat made from sweet almonds. Other almond sweets are marzapan and polvorones. Fine Spanish wines and Cava, a Catalan champagne, are the drinks especially popular for toasting the holiday. After the meal, many Spaniards go to midnight mass, “La misa del Gallo”, which translates as “Rooster Mass”. The name comes from the tradition that the rooster made the first announcement of Christ’s birth.
Shops are closed Christmas day, which is a national holiday. Children may receive small gifts from Papa Noel—the Spanish Santa Claus—but they know their main gifts will arrive January 6th, the day of Epiphany, when the Three Kings bring presents for all the children. People often have their large meal at lunchtime—with family at home or in restaurants.
How do you celebrate the holidays? Do you prefer to stay with tried and true traditions or to try something new each year? Maybe a blend of both? Since my family lives far away, I join the crowds of Christmas travelers—I suppose we’re like modern day pilgrims, in a way. The travel’s not much fun, but I cherish being with family, especially at this time of year. I enjoy the foods and fragrances of the season, and especially the lights. However you choose to celebrate, I hope this is a sparkling holiday season for you and yours.
About the Author: By day she’s a mild-mannered language teacher. But after hours, Mardi Ballou’s wild writer persona erupts and entraps her in bondage…to her computer. Release comes only once she achieves her word count goal, at which point the maniacal chocolate monster will give her one sublime piece. And then she can spend time with her hero husband Lee, who gives great massages at strategic times. So Mardi writes what she knows— romances—hot and mainstream—for Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, NCP, Whiskey Creek, and Changeling. Also women’s fiction. Her most recent releases are, from Ellora’s Cave, Dark Venues, Sherry Amor, Soap Bloke, and Desert Destiny in e-book format and, in print, "Long, Slow Ride" in the Better with Age anthology and "Perfect Pear" in the Ripe and Ready anthology. The Fangly, My Dear series—Byte Marks, What’s a Ghoul to Do? and Playing with Matches—is in print from Samhain. Check out all of Mardi’s books, and more, at http://MardiBallou.com.
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