Christmas in Spain begins on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and continues through Epiphany, of Three Kings Day, in January. A few days before Christmas the national lottery drawing takes place, and 75% of Spaniards participate in it — including schoolchildren, who sing the winning numbers as they’re drawn.
On Christmas Eve, families prepare a great feast and sing Christmas carols before going to Midnight Mass or “La Misa Del Gallo.” The mass is followed by a parade through the streets with guitars and tambourines and singing. “Esta noche es Noche-Buena,” the old saying goes, “Y no es noche de dormir.” (“It’s Christmas Eve, not a night for sleeping.”) On Christmas day, most people go to church and then continue celebrating with their families. December 28th, the Feast of the Innocents, is observed much as we observe April Fool’s Day in the U.S., with practical jokes and harmless tricks. Children receive gifts on January 6th from the Three Kings.
Here are some fun holiday connections:
- One Spanish custom that works well in the classroom is Amigo Invisible (Invisible Friend), much like Secret Santa in the U.S. Put all the students’ names into a hat and let everyone draw a name. Students will be the Amigo Invisible for the names they draw, offering secret acts of kindness. This can offset pre-holiday rambunctiousness.
- With nearly 30 million Spanish speakers in the U.S., chances are good that you will have Spanish speakers in your classroom. Instead of translating common U.S. holiday songs into Spanish, why not enjoy a traditional Spanish carol like “A Belén pastores“? Work together as a class to translate the words. If you don’t have Spanish speakers in the class, take this opportunity to learn to use Google translate.
- Different customs are found in different parts of Spain, just as is the case in the U.S. One of the most intriguing for Americans is the custom of jumping over a bonfire on the winter solstice, which is found in Granada and Jaen. Another is the custom of setting up swings in town squares. Young people swing in time to music. A bonfire in the playground probably won’t be allowed, but you could use jump ropes instead and let everyone jump over the “bonfire,” and follow that with time on the swings. Using up a bit of excess energy will help everyone concentrate better in the classroom!