One of the best things about living and studying in a new country is the unique insight it provides into an entirely new culture and its traditions. Whilst Christmas in Spain, or dulce Navidad, has many familiar aspects to it, there are certain elements that make celebrating the festive season here a little different. Sevilla is a great place to learn the differences and celebrate in a slightly different way. From the plazas strung with lights, to the villancicos sung in the streets, here are a few things not to miss in the city this Christmas whilst you’re studying Spanish…
The Immaculate Conception Day
In Spain, the holiday season officially kicks off on the 8th of December with the Immaculate Conception Day – the Día de la Inmaculada Concepción, the celebration of when the Virgin Mary became pregnant with Jesus Christ. It’s an official holiday in Spain and in Sevilla it’s marked on the evening of the 7th as los tunos, the university student music groups, play and sing in the streets all through the night. This procession ends at the feet of La Purisima, where they leave flowers by the statue. There is also a service the day after in the Cathedral and children perform traditional dances – both spectacles not to be missed.
Visit a Nativity Scene
Another tradition of Spanish Christmas is to create elaborate mini replicas of Bethlehem and nativity scenes. Most churches as well as businesses will invest and display their own, and you’ll see many of these belén or nacimiento appearing in the city. In fact, Sevilla is the host of one of the largest Nativity scene markets, held in front of the Cathedral in the six weeks leading up to Christmas. Particularly impressive are the intricate edible scenes created by the bakeries. It’s not uncommon to queue to see some of the more popular ones – but these are usually the nativity scenes worth waiting for.
Explore the Christmas Markets
There are many wonderful markets which spring up in the city for the Christmas period – perfect for all your Christmas shopping. In the Plaza Nueva you’ll find a rare books market or the Feria del Libro Antiguo, great for finding old Spanish books and practice your new language skills. In the same plaza, from mid December there is also a market of artisans and craftsman, all selling perfect Christmas presents – from jewellery to pottery, all quintessentially Sevillian. The Exposición y Vento de Dulces is also worth visiting, the market to go to for the sweet treats of the season.
Enjoy a Christmas Concert
Another key part of Christmas in Spain is the live music and traditional performances, which take place during December. There are many official concerts and classical music being played in the Cathedral, but you’re equally likely to catch some singing and more typical holiday songs in the centre of town in the plazas as groups perform on the streets.
Sevilla is a wonderful place to spend the Christmas season – make sure you make the most of it and take in all these fantastic Spanish traditions whilst you’re living in the city. If you have more ways to celebrate Christmas in Seville, don´t forget to share it with us.