If you come to Barcelona on Christmas you should know some of our Christmas traditions. If you trust the saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans”, you should bring to the city a red piece of underwear, eat “neulas”, buy a “caganer” or give blows to trunk “el tió”. Merry Christmas!
Red underwear for New Year’s Eve
It’s not an exclusive Catalan tradition but since years ago is becoming typical and now, the last night of the year, red color takes center stage. The origin comes from medieval times where red clothes were forbidden. This color was associated to the devil, the blood and the witchery but it was also a meaning of life. It’s because of the last reason that people wanted to wear a red piece, they though that could bring good luck. The fact that it was underwear was to hide from the prohibitions of the time.
So in New Year: wear red underwear and eat 12 grapes by the sound of the 12 strikes.
The sweetest of Christmas: nougats, marzipans, the “roscón”, shortbreads
If you are lucky to eat in Christmas Eve, Christmas, St. Stephen (Sant Esteve) or other festivities in our land, remember to have the chance to try our deserts. The king of the parties is, without a doubt, the nougat. There are many varieties but the most traditional are the Alicante (tough) and the Jijona (soft). If you have stomach for more confectionaries you can try marzipans and shortbreads.
In Catalonia there is the tradition to eat “neulas” or wafers at the end of big Christmas meals. There are people who dip them into the “cava”. It is common for children to eat one after another without stopping.
And on the Three Kings Day, to end all these big meals, we finish with the king cake (roscón de reyes). An old tradition that began with rounded cakes full of figs, dates and honey. And it has become a sponge cake with candied fruit, pumpkin or cream depending on location, and especially with a couple of surprises inside. We expect you to be the king of the party, and not get the bean, or you will pay the cake.
The “caganer” and the “caga tió”
In this case we talk about Catalan Christmas traditions, and both are a little bit weird. On the one hand, it is common in Catalan cribs to find where the “caganer” figure is hided. It is an individual, crouched down with his buttocks in the air, making his physiological needs. If you go through a Christmas market do not forget to take one.
The other tradition is for Christmas day, where little kids pick a stick and give blows to a trunk with a painted face. During the days leading up to Christmas, children have been feeding the “tió”, so that on December 25 “shits” them gifts. It certainly is a different tradition.
With this list you’re ready to spend a Christmas as a Barcelona citizen. Merry Christmas!