Christmas holidays in Catalonia

Theatrical nativity scenes, New Year’s Eve and the Ride of the Three Kings: many experiences to live in the most magical time of the year

Catalonia confirms itself as a magical land that offers to those who visit it an infinite number of choices. Those who spend their Christmas holidays there, a last minute New Year’s Eve or the Epiphany will immerse themselves in the fascinating traditions that revolve around Christmas, but that also fascinate people less influenced by the festive atmosphere.

For those who spend a weekend in the pre-Christmas period or immediately after, Catalonia offers much more than just classic markets, but shows that combine art and tradition. For example, there are many living nativity scenes throughout the region, the most famous of which is the medieval town of Corbera de Llobregat in the province of Barcelona. Every year from December until after the Epiphany, the Nativity is performed by more than 200 actors, in an incomparable natural setting. The performance, with attention to detail, is a current proof of the long Catalan theatrical tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.

Another artistic crib worthy of note this year is the one in Plaça de Sant Jaume in Barcelona, created by the set designer Paula Bosch. On display until January 6, the artist has reconstructed the nativity inside boxes of all types and sizes with decorations, objects and ammennicoli typical of Christmas and found in the homes of each of us. The wonder of this exhibition is that there is a double key of interpretation: seen from behind the boxes recreate the facades of buildings with illuminated windows, street lamps and cables that connect them.

Those who choose to spend the New Year’s Eve in the Spanish region are spoilt for choice. It’s not just Barcelona, in fact, but the whole of Catalonia that animates the streets of all cities with fireworks shows and concerts in the main squares. Tourists who love tradition, even before toasting with a glass of Cava, a famous Catalan sparkling wine, will eat 12 grapes, one for each chiming of midnight. In doing so, they will secure their fortune for the whole of the new year.

Finally, those who spend the weekend of the Epiphany attend a show unique in the world: the Cavalcada dels Reis Mags (or The Parade of the Magi). The Three Kings are fundamental figures in Catalonia, because they traditionally bring gifts to children instead of Santa Claus and the Epiphany. All of Catalonia celebrates this feast with floats and cars, but the most famous festival is that of Barcelona. On the night of January 5, the city organizes a big reception for the kings of the East, with a parade in the streets, accompanied by a large following of floats, groups of artistic companies and thousands of people. The three kings, played by perfectly made up actors and dressed as Gaspare, Melchiorre and Baldassarre, arrive in Barcelona by sea and are received by the mayor, who gives them the keys to the city so that they can symbolically open the doors of all the houses in Barcelona to leave the gifts to the little ones.

On the occasion of the arrival of the Magi, the traditional dessert is the cake of the Kings, a marzipan doughnut with candied fruit. Its peculiarity is the “intruders” inside the dough: the small statue of a king and a bean. Those who have a slice with the king will be crowned for a day, while those who have a slice with the bean will have to pay for the cake the following year.


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