Tag Archives: christmas

Seville | Christmas in Seville

christmas market ayuntamientoArtisan market and City Hall lights

Yes, it’s that time of year again. And as the weather closes in and the shops fill up with too many people, maybe you should be thinking about doing Christmas somewhere else this year. Like Seville.

So why Seville? Well, for a start, it’s warmer. It’s not exactly beach weather, but it is one of the warmest places in Europe at this time of year. It’s also one of the most welcoming and festive, and whether you’re a resident or visitor there’s always something to see or do. In some ways it’s quite like many other cities. From early December the city lights up, with Christmas lights in all the major squares and thoroughfairs. The shopping districts are crowded, too, especially in the evenings, and the singers of Christmas carols are out and about, adding to the general hustle and bustle. Fresh roasted chestnuts are a big thing here as well, and you can see the sellers with their little charcoal stoves on handcarts on every street corner, providing a little something to overcome the gentle nip in the air.

belenBelén (nativity scene) in the Arqillo de San Francisco

Some things are just that little bit different, though. One thing you’ll notice is the popularity of Nativity Scenes, called Belens (Bethlehems). Not only does almost everyone have one at home, they’ll also queue for hours to see the best public ones, which can be impressive. Check out the ones in the Cathedral, beside the Ayuntamiento, outside Corte Inglés and in the Cajasol building in Plaza San Francisco.

setas marketLa Magia de Navidad

Perhaps because of the relatively mild, light evenings of southern Spain Christmas Fayres and markets are also a big thing in Seville. The annual Artesan market in Plaza Nueva and the Belen market next to the Cathedral are good for unusual presents, but there also the “Magia de Navidad” fayres around the Metropol Parasol and in the Alameda de Hercules, complete with donkey and rides, and fairground rides for the kids, as well as the stalls selling jewellery, leather goods and fast food. These last right through the holiday period to January 6, just before the children head back to school.

157-IMG_20131208_152238All the fun of the fair

Perhaps the biggest difference of all, though, is that in Spain, the day for giving presents is not Christmas day (although it’s becoming more common these days), but Epiphany (January 6). This is, after all, the day when the three Wise Kings – Los Reyes Magos, Caspar, Melchior and Baltazar – brought their presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. The day before there is a big parade through the streets, the Cabalgata de los Reyes, with the kings and their assistants on floats throwing sweets to the children. It’s one of the year’s most popular events and draws huge crowds.

Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena) and Christmas Day (Navidad) are for the family, and on Christmas Eve even the bars and restaurants are closed so that staff can enjoy the traditional Christmas Eve family meal at home.

151-IMG_20131208_153512Anyone for a ride?

Other holiday season traditions include the Day of the Innocent Saints (December 28), the Spanish equivalent of April Fools Day, and the eating of twelve grapes while the bells chime for New Year. Finishing them before the bells stop brings good luck for the next year.

Whatever your requirements there’s still time to book a holiday apartment with us over the Christmas and New Year holiday.

Seville | Immaculate Conception Day and the Night of the Tunas

inmaculada abcphoto courtesy of ABC Sevilla

As in so many other places, Christmas in Seville seems to come earlier every year. The lights are switched on sooner, Christmas markets open earlier, and so on. In Seville, however, we do have an official start of the Christmas season, which helps to keep a check on the excesses. It’s the Day of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated as a public holiday on December 8. Not to be confused with the Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conception refers to the protection of the Virgin Mary from original sin by God’s direct intervention at her conception. Although believed in by many from quite early times, it only became Catholic dogma in 1854, and in Seville it was naturally seized on as another opportunity for getting out in the street to celebrate. The monument to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin in the Plaza del Triunfo was built in 1918, the four figures around the base (Juan de Pineda, Bartolomé Murillo, Miguel Cid and Martinez Montañés) were staunch propagandists for the doctrine.

inmaculada sevillastatue of the Inmaculada in Plaza Triunfo Seville

Nowadays the most popular and visible part of these celebrations is the “Night of the Tunas”. This has nothing to do with fish (in Spanish these are atún). Tunas are roving bands of musicians (usually attached to various faculties of the university) in “medieval” costume, who can often be seen plying their trade outside the bars for a free beer while they chat up girls, but on the evening of December 8 they congregate around the monument for a friendly competition to sing the praises of the Virgin. Considerable crowds gather in and around the square, and the singing and festivities can carry on until dawn.

[watch from 3:35 – 6:05 to see the tunas in front of the Inmaculada]

On the previous evening (December 7), there is a vigil for the Virgin in the Cathedral, and the day itself begins with a less well-known tradition, the Gozos (joys) de la Inmaculada, three bugle fanfares that are sounded from the belltower of the Antonio Abad church in Calle Alfonso XII, followed by a marching band procession to the monument and on to the Murillo Gardens.

The main religious service in the Cathedral is held the following day, and includes the Dance of Los Seises (the choirboys) in front of the main altar, one of only three occasions each year when this is done. The choirboys (originally 6 of them, which is what gave the dance its name, but now 10) are dressed in medieval costumes, which because of a Papal edict can never be replaced, only repaired. The dance goes back to at least the 16th century, and probably longer, predating the Day of the Immaculate Conception.

_MG_8835.JPGLos Seises – photo courtesy of ABC Sevilla

If you’re in Seville The Night of the Tunas is a great excuse for staying up all night in the best Sevillano tradition, and after a day to recover, the serious business of Christmas can get under way in earnest.

If you’re thinking of taking a Christmas break in Seville why not try one of our  holiday apartments?

Seville | Veoapartment Christmas video 2013

In future projects we will be working with Cecilia Villanueva to give a face and voice to our videos. For starters, we have just done a Christmas themed video in the Avenida de la Constitución in Seville, between the city hall and the Cathedral. The voice was recorded in the street, with the tram, police cars, and bicycles passing, and packed with people. Great job Cecilia!

You can also see Cecilia in the preview of the movie La Isla Mínima with Sevilliano director Alberto Rodriguez.

Christmas in Andalucia

There are many aspects of Christmas in Andalucia that are similar to those in other areas of Europe. The Christmas lights go on, the shops fill up with traditional goodies, and a lot of people eat and drink too much. But, of course, there is often a little Spanish twist to them.

christmas lights

The traditional date for the start of festivities in Andalucia is December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception, but as in many other places these days, in practice the season seems to start earlier every year. In Andalucia there is a big tradition of Christmas markets and fairs to supplement your Christmas shopping, with donkey and camel rides, stalls selling cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) gifts and decorations, and sweets and hot dogs to keep you going.

An even bigger Christmas tradition is the Belen (Bethlehem). Almost every house has at least a modest version of the Nativity Scene, but there are also many more elaborate public ones, especially in department stores and churches, and a market that specialises in the models for making them.

Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) and Christmas Day (Navidad) are family days, especially Christmas Eve, which is the night for a big family dinner, turkey and truffles being traditional, and even the bars are closed, although some will open again after midnight. If you’re a visitor having your own apartment rather than a hotel will be a big plus at this time, as you can cook your own Christmas dinner.


New Year’s is celebrated with fireworks, and by the eating of twelve grapes as midnight strikes. Eating them in time brings good luck, and nowadays you can buy the grapes already peeled and stoned to make sure.

The end of the Christmas season is Epiphany (January 6). In Andalucia the night of January 5 is when Los Reyes Magos – the Magic Kings travel round the world on their camels to bring children their presents. Earlier in the evening most cities and towns have a big procession in which the kings and their assistants throw sweets to the crowd. For children it’s the biggest event of the year. At Epiphany everyone eats roscónes, a large doughnut shaped cake. Inside there is a coin and a dry bean. Whoever finds the coin is “king” for the day; whoever finds the bean has to pay for next year’s roscón.