As the holiday season approaches, Granada and the Costa Tropical come alive with the spirit of Christmas, offering a magical and festive atmosphere that captivates locals and visitors alike. From the enchanting streets of Granada to the picturesque coastal towns, the region celebrates Christmas with a unique blend of tradition, culture, and warmth. Let’s explore the delightful festivities that make Christmas in Granada and the Costa Tropical an unforgettable experience,
Costa Tropical, with its charming coastal towns like Almuñécar and Salobreña, become immersed in the festive spirit. The seafront promenades and town centres are decorated with lights, Christmas trees, and other festive ornaments, creating a scenic backdrop for holiday celebrations. Granada city also transforms into a twinkling wonderland during the Christmas period, with elaborate light displays and festive decorations. The historic streets and squares are illuminated, creating a breathtaking spectacle. The city centre, especially around the Cathedral and Bib-Rambla Square, becomes a hub of festive activity, with Christmas markets, street performers, and joyful crowds.
In Spain, there is a unique celebration known as “Día de los Santos Inocentes” or Holy Innocents’ Day on December 28th. Often referred to as the Spanish equivalent of April Fools’ Day, this lighthearted occasion involves playful pranks, jokes, and humorous hoaxes. Families and friends engage in good-natured trickery, and even media outlets contribute by sharing fictional stories. The day commemorates the biblical story of King Herod’s order to massacre young male children, and while the historical background is somber, the modern-day observance is a cheerful and amusing interlude during the festive season in Spain.
The most important Christmas traditions on the Costa Tropical and Granada:
Nochebuena (Christmas Eve): On December 24th, families gather for a festive dinner, often featuring traditional dishes like seafood, lamb, and sweets. Midnight Mass, known as “La Misa del Gallo,” is a significant part of the celebration. Most shops and restaurantes close earlier in the afternoon that day. In recent years, a new tradition has appeared among young adults called “prenochebuena”, in which friends get together to celebrate in a bar before joining the family for Nochebuena’s dinner.
Día de Navidad (Christmas Day): on 25th December some families indulge in a distinctive Christmas lunch, while others opt for a regular meal, having already celebrated elaborately the previous day. It is a common practice for families to creatively repurpose leftovers from the festive Nochebuena celebration, ensuring that the Christmas Day meals retain a delightful touch of the previous night’s merriment. In Spain, the beloved figure associated with gift-giving during the Christmas season is not Santa Claus but rather the Three Wise Men, known as the “Reyes Magos”. While Santa Claus, or “Papá Noel,” has increased in popularity in recent years, especially in commercial contexts, and many families also celebrate the traditional gift-giving day revolves on Christmas Day. Most people have a day off work this day and most shops will be closed.
Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve): December 31st is a night of lively celebrations and fireworks. Families and friends gather for a special dinner while they wait for the “campanadas” moment (the chiming of the bells) at 12 o´clock. As the clock counts down to midnight on December 31st, Spanish people consume quickly the twelve grapes, each grape symbolizing good luck for each month of the coming year. This custom is often performed while watching the live broadcast of the clock striking twelve at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Many people attend the “campanadas” on the local town hall square, where grapes and party bags are distributed to the crowd. This is followed by fireworks displays and live music performances.
Noche de Reyes (Three Kings’ night): Celebrated on January 5th, this day marks the arrival of the Three Wise Men, Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, who followed the star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the newborn Jesus. Festivities include parades (cabalgatas). During these processions, elaborately adorned floats carry the Three Kings, accompanied by their royal entourage, through the streets. The spectacle is a visual feast with participants dressed in majestic costumes, and it captures the attention and excitement of children and adults alike. After returning home from the “cabalgata”, children traditionally leave their shoes out, along with a plate of treats for the kings and water or milk for their camels.
Día de Reyes (January 6th): In return, the Three Kings leave gifts and sweets for the children, creating a magical atmosphere in homes across the country. The day itself is a public holiday, and families often gather for a festive meal. One of the culinary highlights is the “Roscón de Reyes,” a ring-shaped cake adorned with candied fruits and sometimes filled with cream or chocolate. Sharing this delicious treat is a cherished tradition, and hidden within the cake are small surprises or a figurine, adding an element of excitement to the celebration. Tradition has it that the person who finds the bean has to buy the cake the following year.
The Christmas markets in Granada and the Costa Tropical are a feast for the senses. Traditional markets pop up in various locations, offering a delightful array of handmade crafts, artisanal gifts and seasonal treats. Visitors can explore stalls filled with nativity scenes, festive decorations, and local delicacies, making it the perfect opportunity to find unique gifts and immerse themselves in the holiday spirit.
Nativity scenes, or “Belenes” in Spanish, are an integral part of Christmas traditions across the country. These intricate displays depict the biblical story of the birth of Jesus, often featuring handcrafted figurines and elaborate backdrops that showcase the talent of locals artists.