Spanish Christmas Customs 1- Fleecing the relatives

Posted on December 17th, 2011 by Theresa

Yes, yes, you’re all familiar with the Three Kings, the 12 lucky grapes and the big fat Gordo Lottery.  But you don’t know everything about Spanish Christmas customs, do you? Whatever, you can always refresh your memory and load up with extra bags of useless information for all those Christmas parties.  We start the countdown to Christmas with …

El Aguinaldo – or Fleecing the relatives

Better known as ‘la paga extra’, el aguinaldo is the Christmas bonus that workers traditionally receive at the end of the year (if the crisis hasn’t led to an axing …). The word itself goes back to the 14th century and is probably derived from the Latin expression hoc in anno, meaning ‘in this year’.  More interestingly, el Aguinaldo is also a type of money-extorting wassail. In the García family, at any rate, no sooner have the Christmas dinner plates been cleared away than all of those aged five to 25 (or 35 if still unemployed / earning Dickensian wages and living at home) ambush their elders with a rousing rendition or six of el Aguinaldo. It goes like this and it gets sung to/at every ‘proper’ adult in the room:

“Dame el aguinaldo, carita de rosa
que no tienes cara de ser tan roñosa
La campana gorda de la catedral
se te caiga encima si no me lo das
y si me lo das
y si me lo das…
¡que pases las Pascuas con felicidad!”

You get the message, right? If you want a nice Christmas, sunshine, hand over the dosh – or if you prefer, get splattered to death by the ten-tonne bell of a cathedral (No wonder the Spanish have taken so well to trick or treating …).  In my experience, it’s wise to comply. Once the relatives have been fleeced, the older ‘children’ set about dividing up the spoils – supposedly equally, though I have witnessed full-scale wars erupt at this point. As a footnote, I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has experienced this ‘charming’ custom, as its practice no longer seems widespread.

8 Responses to “Spanish Christmas Customs 1- Fleecing the relatives”

  1. Isabel Says:

    I am from the province of Jaen and I can tell you this:
    When I was small, about 30 years ago, children went out to ask for the bonus to our relatives and neighbours. We had to sing a carol, and received some money and / or some “polvorones”.
    Today this tradition is being lost in the big cities, but continues in the villages.
    In my area it is sung:
    Deme el aguinaldo
    señora por Dios
    que venimos cuatro
    y entraremos dos
    de aquí no me voy
    sin el aguinaldo

  2. Theresa Says:

    Interesting. Why cock-a-doodle-do????
    It is similar, I guess, to carol-singing in the UK, where groups of children and / or adults go around singing different carols from house to house for money – usually to raise money for charity, though.

  3. Mo Says:

    Hopefully my daughter, aged 12, will never hearof this custom! I have to make sure she never finds your website …

  4. Theresa Says:

    😀 Yes,they can get quite demanding!

  5. Fernando Says:

    In Andalusia this kind of popular Christmas song is also called “aguilando”. You can read this short article from El Pais about it:

    A very popular lyrics: “Ya viene la vieja / con el aguilando, / le parece mucho, / le viene quitando”.

  6. Theresa Says:

    Interesting, Fernando. The word is virtually the same, but the letters change place! My Spanish family is actually Andaluz – well with my suegro from Sevilla and my suegra from Melilla.

  7. Belinda Beckett Says:

    I love all the weird and wonderful Spanish customs but this reminds me a bit of the Christmas Box (obligatory tip) my parents used to give the milkman, binmen, postmen et al back in the UK, and the belligerent ones didn’t go away until you’d handed it over!

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