Atipika invites you to live through Christmas in Barcelona
Barcelona is an open, cosmopolitan and multicultural city. It shares many festivities and traditions with the rest of the country and Europe, but like any territory worth its salt, it maintains, for centuries, its own customs. Cold days, family union, gifts… the Christmas spirit is universal and, as always, the kick-off to these holidays is given by powering the Christmas lights. Atipika wants to develop a small guide, both for those who regularly enjoy Christmas in Barcelona, and for those who have not had the pleasure yet.
As in all houses around the world, the first thing is to fill the home with that characteristic warmth that floods a decorated Christmas house. A Christmas tree with lots of hanging balls, mistletoe, jingle bells, red Christmas flowers and, of course, the manger or nativity scene, that small model that represents the arrival of the baby Jesus in the world, that has all kinds of characters as animals, laundresses, soldiers and, in Catalonia, with ‘el caganer’. Essential in all Catalan mangers, this figure with sash and ‘barretina’ is a symbol of good luck, as their feces fertilize the land and the coming year.
Once the house is furnished, Christmas holidays are fully inaugurated on December 24, with the celebration of Christmas Eve, a must of all these days in which family, dinner and nougat are the main characters. To go with this celebration, it is a tradition in many houses to recite a little verse, ‘el verset’ and sing to the ‘Tió de Nadal’. El Tió, the trunk or the ‘xoca’ is a wooden log, with face, ‘barretina’ and pipe, which is set at home at the beginning of December, which must be cared for, fed and covered with a blanket every night so that on the 24th he can do his great work. If we have treated this trunk well, if we hit him with a stick and sing its song properly, it will defecate candy and gifts for all children.
There are those who celebrate the Tió, an essentially Catalan tradition, but there are also those who hold back until the morning of December 25 and embrace the universal tradition of Santa Claus or ‘Papá Noel’, that endearing character who, according to Western culture, brings gifts to Children for Christmas. After opening all the gifts, it is time to start setting up the table for the great Christmas meal. Once again, it is time to delight your stomach: ‘Escudella i carn d’olla’ (galets soup stuffed with broth meat) is the quintessential menu of this ‘Diada de Nadal’ in Catalonia. And besides that, nougat, shortbread cookies, marzipan, ‘neules’, nuts and other exquisite and highly caloric products typical of these holidays.
And there is not much time to rest the stomach, since the next day, the 26th, the day of Sant Esteve or San Esteban is celebrated in Catalonia. With the leftovers of the previous two days, all families enjoy one more meal: meat cannelloni. After the meal, the family sings, dances and plays the hand drum on a table talk that can perfectly last until dinner time.
And, five days later, it is time to say goodbye to the year at New Year’s Eve dinner, or Cap d’Any, here in Catalonia. L’Home dels Nassos (The Man of the Noses, one who has as many noses as days are left to finish the year) is finally seen in ‘Plaça del Palau’, on a wooden flooring covered with sheets. The main tradition of this day is the same as in the rest of Spain: party, dinner, grapes and champagne to celebrate the arrival of the new year. The next day, on the first day of the year, many families celebrate a meal that, normally, only the kids and the oldest can attend, since the young members of the family have stayed after the New Year’s Eve party.
After this holiday, there are few days left for the arrival of the Three Wise Men. On the afternoon of January 5, all children gather to follow their majesty’s parade through their respective cities, in order to deliver their wish letters to the pages and to receive tons of candy. After the ride, it is usual to have dinner with friends and family at home. However, be careful! Children must go to bed early, because when they wake up the big surprise awaits them. And, the next morning, early morning, gifts and, again, family meal. After lunch, we have the last Christmas holiday classic, ‘El Tortell de Reis’; a ring-shaped candy made with brioche paste that hides inside a figurine of a king and a bean. Whoever is lucky enough to find the king, they will receive the crown, and whoever runs into the bean will have to pay for the dessert.
Barcelona is full of light, illusion and celebration during these dates. There are many proposals throughout the city for those who want to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere that fills in the streets. The essential Christmas visit is ‘La Fira de Santa Llúcia’, which is celebrated in the Cathedral Square and begins with the month. It has more than 280 stops ordered by sectors according to the products sold: nativity scenes and decoration, vegetation, crafts and musical instruments of Christmas. It is the oldest and most classic Christmas market in the Catalan capital where sellers offer, as they have done since yesteryear, all those products needed to live through Catalan Christmas. There is still time to visit it, until December 23, and its schedule covers the entire day. You can check the program by clicking on the link: https://es.firadesantallucia.cat/.
This year, the Port Vell (the harbor) has been added for the first time to the Christmas party. A 31m tall tree, a big wheel that offers amazing views of the seafront and the best lights in the city are part of ‘La Fira de Nadal del Port Vell’ (Christmas fair). Around the big fir, a whole set of wooden huts with the most typical products, as well as a large area of artisan cuisine. With this fair, the port has promoted a typical European Christmas that implies a clear renewal and globalization of the tradition in the city. The entire program is available by clicking on the link: https://www.firadenadalportvell.com/?lang=en.
Another of the novelties that Barcelona offers during these days is the possibility of getting the best Christmas decoration on the planet. Käthe Wohlfahrt, the German brand that was born in 1964 in Bavaria opened its doors on November 6 at Banys Nous Street, in ‘El Gòtic’. With shops in several European capitals, this craft workshop has the best quality Christmas objects, from light arches, nutcracker dolls, incense and candles to traditional wooden toys for the little ones.
In addition, the city has multiple mangers open to the public. The nativity scene of the ‘Plaça de Sant Jaume’ is perhaps the most famous of all of them, as it presents innovative and current proposals every year. This year, the proposal revolves around all the boxes full of objects and memories that are recovered at Christmas. The manger of the Monastery of Pedralbes also presents a popular, traditional nativity scene with important popular roots. Finally, living mangers are also very famous in the city. The most emblematic ones are found in Torre Baró, El Poble Espanyol and in the gardens of Cottolengo del Padre Alegre.
It is always interesting to know the customs and traditions of a territory. The case of Barcelona and, in general, of all of Catalonia, is special, since we embrace European and Spanish traditions and we create our owns as well. We are a cosmopolitan city; whose Christmas attracts millions of tourists and national and international residents every year, and our Christmas offers varied proposals to surprise everyone who visits this city. At Christmas, Barcelona smells like ginger and dresses up to receive the most wonderful time of the year. From Atipika, we want to wish you a happy holiday and New Year’s greetings.
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