On 5 January Spain celebrates the end of Christmas with a great party where everybody gives and receives presents. It is to celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men - Melchior Caspar and Balthazar - to the city where Jesus was born. In the same way that the Three Wise Men gave gifts to baby Christ, here they share out presents amongst children around Spain - in fact; they are more popular than Santa Claus.
There are lots of processions of the Three Wise Men in each city, the children go along with their parents to see the kings and receive sweets from them, before going to sleep that night all the children put some milk, and biscuits next to the Christmas tree for the Three Kings, and some water for their camels, they also leave out their best pair of shoes to be filled with presents.
On the next day, 6 January children wake up and see how many presents they have received. If they have been good, they will find a lot of good presents but if they have been naughty they will find coal. These days, the coal is actually made of sugar, but some years ago it was real coal.
During the day, all families enjoy a piece of Roscon (a sugar-frosted fruit and fondant filled bread) this is eaten at breakfast, tradition says that the person who finds a novelty such as a coin, in his or her portion will have good luck for the next year, similar to the six pence in a Christmas Pudding.
There are many different ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve, or Nochevieja which means ‘The Old Night’ in Spain, but there is just one tradition which everyone takes part in. If you want to be part of this custom you must buy 12 grapes and be ready to eat them when the clock strikes midnight. If you can eat one grape per chime you can look forward to a year of happiness and luck. Spanish people usually eat the 12 grapes at home with their families or go to one of the main city squares.
On New Year’s Eve in Spain and after dinner with close family or friends, preparations start for midnight, making sure that everyone has twelve grapes each, as well as a glass of Cava to welcome in the New Year. In Spain while the clock is striking midnight it is customary to eat one grape with each of the chimes, until the New Year is in then its party time normally until the early hours of New Years Day.
Others prefer to go to a main square and each town has one to celebrate New Year’s Eve live music and entertainment is provided, party goers take their own bottles of Cava and tins of grapes specially done for New Years celebrations, (the liveliest of all the squares is reputedly Pun del Sal, in Madrid). Fireworks, party poppers, car horns and anything else suitable rings out to bring in the New Year.
Early next morning, the party-goers enjoy a breakfast of chocolate con churros (hot chocolate and filed pastry).
Tradition states that wearing red underwear brings good luck for the year as long as it’s been bought for you by someone else.