Yes, the shopping centres are crawling with Papa Noels and you can’t get through the door of the Euro shops for all-singing, all-dancing Christmas tree tack. True, El Corte Inglés seems to kick off the season a week or three earlier each year. And yes, the advertising on television for toys, perfumes, aftershaves and watches that cost more than the average car are as relentless as anywhere else in the western world. And yet there is still so much about Christmas in Spain that is unique. From throat-slashing Santas to defecating shepherds we take a look at 16 of the quirkiest festive customs.
Cod and cauliflower. It may not be your idea of a slap up Christmas feast, but bacalao con coliflor is what the Galicians traditionally tuck into for dinner on Christmas Eve. Doesn’t grab you? Well, if you hang around for Christmas Day, you can try another festive Galician speciality: capon, or castrated rooster.
Crapping log. Brilliant Christmas Eve custom in Catalunya that involves clobbering a blanket-covered log stuffed with presents. For days beforehand the children feed up the cagatió (literally, the crapping log) by placing titbits under the blanket. Then, on December 24, the violence starts. “Caga tió, · they sing, “sinó et donaré un cop de bastó”. Drop your load, log, or I’ll give you a jolly good hiding.
Scatological shepherds. One character you will always find with his trousers down somewhere in the belén or nativity scene, perhaps under a bridge or under a haystack, is el cagón or in Catalan, el caganer. The crapper. In Catalunya caganers are big business: there are associations of caganer collectors and enthusiasts, caganer exhibitions, and every year a handful of public figures receive the honour of having their bums immortalised in plaster. There have been caga-Ronaldinhos, caga-Monica Lewinskys and even caga-Papas (er, crapping Popes). This year the most-talked about honoured buttock-displaying personage is none other than ‘our own’ Queen Elizabeth.
Fooling around. The Spanish play April Fool’s type tricks on December 28, The Feast of the Holy Innocents – the day that commemorates King Herod’s slaughter of baby boys. This is not down to some warped sense of humour but seems to have grown out of the old Feast of Fools, which was once part of the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
Zambombing in Jeréz. Fancy joining in a flamenco-style carol-singing session? Then get yourself over to Jeréz de la Frontera in Cádiz any Saturday before Christmas and find yourself a zambomba in one of the town’s patios, plazas or flamenco peñas (clubs). A zambomba is a kind of rustic drum through which a stick is, well, stuck, and then rubbed up and down to make a low zam-bom sound, but it also refers to the name of the jerezano festival itself.
Zambomba party in Jerez with zambomba included:
More things you possibly never knew about Navidad coming soon!