Sweets, parties, lights, markets lots and lots of poinsettias and a huge parade in January. The Spanish Christmas is lovely, low key and family oriented but with all the magic that Christmas is supposed to envoke.
At the start of December, the stores start selling mantecados and turrones. Mantecados are sweets made from lard and powdered nuts, with different flavors, like lemon or chocolate. Turron is a nougat candy made from almonds. There are about a dozen different types of turron. These sweets appear only before Christmas, as they are traditional Christmas sweets. After Christmas they are difficult to find, except in a few stores. Most foreigners like these sweets and then they get frustrated the rest of the year when they cannot find them in the stores. The only problem with these sweets is that they are habit forming, and if one eats too much, one starts gaining weight, because they are loaded with calories. What are addictive are turrons made with chocolates and truffles.
By the middle of December, the city authorities have put about 2 and a half million holiday lights downtown. At night the streets are full of people who come to see the holiday lights. One will be amazed at the enormous number of lights.
Calle Larios is the main street (famous for being paved with marble) and there are portals above the street with lights in the form of blue and yellow stars. Every few meters the portal is repeated, so the whole street is lighted. All of the main streets are similarly lighted, but with each street with a different colored star decoration. You could not ask for a more beautiful street scene. Every year the designs of the lights are changed. In one of the little plazas they construct a 30 foot high cone of poinsettias. The skeleton was made of metal and the flowered pots were put in horizontally. This design is very unique and gives dramatic results. There are poinsettias everywhere, along the streets, planted in street dividers, and hanging from lamp posts. All of the trees were illuminated too. The palm trees have girdles of lights around them. There is a main street called the Alameda Principal, which has very tall and big trees. These are also lighted with girdles and the main branches are also lighted. The park is also lighted with the star motif, but in a different color. All the stores are decorated for Christmas. All of the fountains were decorated with poinsettias. The whole effect is magical.
The whole downtown looks like an amusement park. They go all out for Christmas here. Apparently the city and the merchants pay for all the lights. During this season the stores are open on Sundays to accommodate the shoppers. The park also gets about 100 temporary stands where they sell clothing items, crafts, things for the home, and costume jewelry at very reasonable prices. Many people find bargains in these stands.
Nativity Scene In Malaga and Spain, few decorate their houses with Christmas trees. What is traditional is the Nativity scene. People arrange little statues of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the sheperds in little displays in their homes. The Cathedral also shows beautiful Nativity scenes. There is usually a very elaborate Nativity scene in the city hall and parents bring their children to see them. Many hermandades and other churches also display their own Nativity scenes. The best statues are those that were made in Naples, Italy, and these antiques are very valuable.
Christmas Eve It is the custom in Malaga and all of Spain to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The families get together on that night or the next day and have a meal together. All of the extended family will attend, so the meal may have 30 or more people. The meal will usually be a feast with a lot of food, especially the jamon Serrano (cured ham). There will be shrimps, seafood, chicken, turkey, mutton, soup, vegetables, and all kinds of appetizers. They may have paella too. For dessert they have traditional foods, such as roscos, which are sweet breads filled with cream or pastry. These have to be ordered in advance from the bakeries. Besides eating, the people present at the party will be talking, usually all at the same time, so a visitor is overwhelmed by the noise. This is natural for the Malagueños, who associate a good time with a lot of talking.
The Coming of the Three Kings in Malaga On Jan. 5, at 4:45 pm one goes towards the port of Malaga for the Three Kings parade. Thousands of parents with their children start walking in the same direction. At the port one sees the Three Kings arrive on a boat. Then they go to a stage, where the mayor greets them officially to Malaga. After that the parade starts and goes through the park and the main streets downtown. There must be about 30 floats. Each float had a theme, most of them having nothing to do with the Three Kings. They have beauty queens and each float has about a dozen children dressed in costume. The costumes are from all the pages of history, literature, movies, tv, etc. When the float passes by, the children on the float throw candy to the crowds continuously, and the crowds scramble on the ground to pick up the candy. There must be several hundred thousand people watching the parade. Sometimes the candy will hit you on the face. There may be a float with a giant golden Buddha. Another float may have Cruela and a dozen children dressed as the Dalmatians. One float may have Cleopatra and her court. There may a bus dressed as Shrek. Between the floats are marching bands and other paraders dressed in costume. One group may be composed of a Caesar and his Roman soldiers, who will battle a group dressed as Vikings. All the time the parade is going on, the children will shout “Tira”, meaning throw, for the children on the float to throw candy in their direction. Since many of the adults here are children at heart, they had as much fun as their children. The parade keeps going for several hours of the night and ends on the main street of the city, Calle Larios. The parade reminds one of Halloween and Mardi Gras combined for children. It gives children a chance to dress in costume, which apparently is very popular here. Malagueños like to have fun, and this parade is one of the highlights of their year. On Jan. 6, Three Kings Day, is when the children traditionally get their Christmas gifts. However many are copying the tradition of Santa Claus and giving the children their gifts on Christmas, so that the children can play with them before school starts in January.