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Christmas in Marbella

Christmas is an enchanting season universally celebrated, and in Spain, it comes alive with distinctive Spanish traditions and customs. In contrast to many other countries, Spain's holiday festivities stretch over an extended period. The celebrations kick off on December 8th and gracefully conclude on January 6th. Yet, the festivities persist beyond January 6th with the much anticipated post-Christmas sales.

Important Dates

The Immaculate Conception - 8th of December

Across Spain, the "Día de la Inmaculada Concepción de María" is celebrated, a nationally recognised public holiday that marks the beginning of the holiday season. Spaniards unite for an evening filled with food, music and dance, commemorating a profoundly religious occasion. Many families and friends gather at their local churches, sharing a meal together. The streets come alive with parades featuring statues of the Virgin Mary, accompanied by local singing and lively festivities that extend well into the early hours.

Noche Buena - 24th of December

Nochebuena, akin to Christmas Eve in English-speaking countries, unfolds on the 24th of December, marking a time when families and friends come together to partake in a traditional Christmas banquet. The celebrations extend well into the night, with some households wrapping up their meals just as the chapel bells announce midnight, signalling the commencement of the Midnight Mass. Attended by many families, the Mass is accompanied by choir performances. Post-Mass, the merriment continues with joyous dancing that carries on into the early hours of December 25th.

Nochebuenas delectable Spanish feasts unfold with an array of starters, featuring assorted cheeses, Spanish ham, olives, preserves, pickles and Iberian delicacies, with a special emphasis on seafood. The first course typically features a hearty stew or soup, known as Caldo in Spanish. The main course boasts a variety of Christmas specialties, including oven-baked fish, seafood, shellfish soup, rotisserie meats and the quintessential stuffed turkey or roast lamb.

Three Kings Day - 6th of January

Spain stands out as one of the few countries in the world where Santa isn't the central Christmas figure. In many places, Santa is the bearer of gifts for good boys and girls. However, owing to the deeply ingrained religious traditions in Spain, it is the Three Wise Men who have the honour of presenting gifts for baby Jesus and, in contemporary times, delivering presents to children.

A distinctive aspect of the Spanish Christmas tradition is that children open their gifts under the tree on the 6th of January, unlike the common practice on the 25th of December in many other countries.

While Santa Claus, or Papa Noel in Spanish, has gained popularity across Spain, and numerous families have adopted the tradition of opening gifts on the 25th, a significant portion of the country remains devoted to the Three Kings tradition.

Christmas Traditions

Belén - A Cherished Christmas Tradition.

A Belén, commonly known as Nativity scenes, stands as one of Spain's most widespread Christmas traditions. Spaniards take immense pride in crafting their nativity scenes that depict the birth of Jesus. These scenes come in a myriad of shapes, sizes and styles, with each household adding its unique touch. 

In Marbella town, the municipality - in collaboration with the Nativity Association (Asociación Belenistas de Marbella) - proudly presents a Belén in the Plaza de la Iglesia de la Encarnación in Marbella Old Town. This beautifully organised display is open for everyone to enjoy. San Pedro de Alcántara follows suit with its town hall orchestrating and showcasing an expansive Belén, offering a delightful spectacle for the public year after year.

Christmas Lights and Festive Displays.

Malaga boasts some of the most enchanting Christmas light exhibits in the country at the heart of Calle Larios, the famous shopping street in Málaga. Each year, a gathering of thousands anticipates the end of November when Calle Larios becomes aglow with Malaga's premier Christmas lights. This year, the lights were switched on during the eve of the 24th of November, accompanied by renditions of beloved Christmas songs and Villancicos. 

A novel addition introduced by the Cathedral of Málaga is an audiovisual light spectacle projected onto the cathedral's south tower, immersing spectators in a holiday-themed visual experience. The projections feature scenes of celebration, seasonal motifs and other festive imagery.
The Costa del Sol region also dazzles with its radiant lights. Marbella transforms into a festive wonderland with captivating holiday adornments, inviting everyone to stroll through the Plaza de los Naranjos and the Old Town. Similarly, San Pedro and Estepona showcase nativity scenes and sparkling ornaments.

For those seeking to add a touch of festive flair to their homes, El Corte Ingles and La Cañada stand out as excellent shopping centres for Christmas-related ornaments. Local garden centres like Agrojardin or Viveros del Valle offer a selection of poinsettias and other Christmas plants.

Christmas Lottery - Spain's Grand Tradition.

The Christmas Lottery stands as the pinnacle of annual lottery draws in Spain. The "Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad," celebrated every year on the 22nd of December since 1812, holds the distinction of being the second longest-running lottery in the world. Ticket sales commence as early as July, with each fraction of a ticket available for €20.00.

On the morning of the 22nd of December, a vast audience tunes in to La 1 de RTVE, Spain's primary television broadcasting channel, to witness the eagerly anticipated calling of the lottery numbers.
While numerous prizes are distributed during the lottery, the most coveted is "El Gordo" (The Fat One), a term affectionately used in Spain. Securing "El Gordo" can be life-changing, bestowing the fortunate winner with a substantial sum of money. Many families, friends and even colleagues invest in tickets with dreams of clinching the prize and sharing the joy of winning. It is also a widespread tradition to gift lottery tickets during the festive season, adding an element of excitement to holiday exchanges.

Following closely in importance is the El Niño Lottery, held on January 6th, coinciding with Three Kings Day in Spain. This secondary draw offers participants the chance to win up to €2,000,000, adding an extra layer of excitement to the holiday season.

Roscón de Reyes

A cherished treat on this special day is the Roscón de Reyes: a delightful, crown-shaped brioche cake. Often filled with custard, chocolate or whipped cream and adorned with dried fruits and icing sugar, this sweet creation is a hallmark of the Christmas season. 

Within the Roscón de Reyes hides both a fava bean and a small figurine. The lucky recipient who discovers the figurine in their slice is believed to be blessed with good fortune throughout the entire year. On the flip side, the one who uncovers the bean is bestowed with the responsibility of covering the cost of next year's cake. It's a lighthearted and enjoyable Spanish Christmas tradition, serving as an excellent way to conclude the festive season with a touch of fun and sweetness.

Cabalgatas - A Joyous Tradition in Spain.

On the eve of the arrival of the Three Wise Men on January 5th, families take to the streets to partake in the renowned 'Cabalgata,' a festive parade in honour of the Three Kings. The Three Kings, accompanied by whimsical characters and children dressed as Santa's helpers, make their way through towns and cities on floats, surrounded by a grand entourage. As they proceed, they generously toss sweets to the eagerly waiting children along the streets.

In Marbella, the Cabalgata kicks off at 18:00 in Calle Magallanes, weaving its way through the town centre, and concludes two hours later in Av. Ricardo Soriano. The route is adorned with tons of sweets, now a delightful tradition featuring Gluten-Free Candy each year. The San Pedro de Alcantara Cabalgata follows a similar schedule, commencing at 18:00 and parading through the town.

This Spanish tradition is a source of immense joy for children across the country. With an abundance of sweets, lively music, people in colourful costumes, festive floats and more, it's no wonder that children eagerly anticipate this day as one of the happiest occasions of the year,

What to do during Christmas in Marbella

Marbella comes alive with a plethora of Christmas events catering to all age groups. Beyond the town centre, the festivities extend to areas like San Pedro de Alcantara, Nueva Andalucía and Las Chapas. The Marbella Town Hall curates an extensive Christmas program featuring shows, concerts and contests suitable for everyone. With Marbella basking in 320 days of sunshine each year, it's common to find people celebrating the holidays on the beach or along the coast. 

Known for its vibrant nightlife and glamorous establishments, Marbella's restaurants, bars and clubs don festive decorations. Whether in Puerto Banus or along the Golden Mile, you have the freedom to hop from one place to another to find the perfect holiday ambiance. 

For a seamless holiday experience, it's advisable to book your preferred restaurants well in advance. With both locals and international visitors choosing Marbella as their Christmas destination, reservations tend to fill up quickly come December.
Santa Claus makes a grand entrance at Marbella Port, arriving by boat and parading through the town each year. You can also catch up with Santa at La Cañada Shopping Center, where he often arrives in style. In January, a similar spectacle unfolds with the arrival of the Three Kings. The local town hall announces the confirmed dates for these festive encounters.

If you're looking to break away from holiday stress and routine, consider strapping on your skis or snowboard boots for a unique experience. Just a 2-hour drive away, Sierra Nevada stands as one of the best Christmas skiing destinations. Embraced by snow and bathed in sunlight, Sierra Nevada offers a range of activities for both adults and children. At the end of December, the ski resort opens its doors to night skiing, providing a one-of-a-kind experience that shouldn't be missed.