Travel Ideas for a Holiday in Spain

In Spain, as in other Western countries, it applies the Gregorian calendar, so each new year begins in the night of 31 December and 1 January, which in Spanish is called Nochevieja, which literally means the old night and Feliz Ano Nuevo to say Happy New Year.

As per tradition, the New Year is the most lively celebration of the year, during which people have fun dancing, drinking and being in the company of friends unlike the Nochebuena on Christmas Eve, which is spent at home, celebrating with goodies and for those who can, with an exchange of gifts.

In Spain, the new year is celebrated with different customs with the typical Spanish traditions of eating 12 grapes, along with now globalized costumes such as wearing red underwear, fireworks, and of course wine. On New Year's Day Spanish families get together to dine together with a dinner of Nochevieja, when it is usually consumed at home lentils, shrimp, lamb, Roscón de Reyes and the typical nougat.

During the dinner, but more generally throughout the night the Spaniards make some lucky gestures putting banknote in their shoes, or even put the gold rings in the glasses of wine with which to toast the new year. Both of these gestures symbolize the good financial omen for the coming year. But the tasks are not finished.

During the twelve chimes that mark the countdown to the start of the new year, the Spaniards should engage in different activities like eating 12 grains or grapes, one for each chime of the bells, or even raise the left foot off the ground and keep the foot on the right foot only. Today it is a widespread belief that those who do not eat the 12 grapes on the night of Nochevieja, has a year of bad luck.

Each city has a different way to greet the New Year, but all over the world, the famous Nochevieja is held in the capital, Madrid, where millions of people meet in the main square, Puerta del Sol, wearing colorful wigs and disguises, to listen to the 12 chimes of the centennial bell, preceded by 4 camber. In Madrid, as well as in many other cities, there are fireworks, called hogueras.

Then across the country, people used to call friends and relatives after the end of 12 strokes, to give the best wishes of the new year, which is why the phone lines are usually clogged in the minutes at the stroke of midnight. If you travel to the streets to celebrate the advent of the new year they are 3 basic items like a disguise, even satirical, 12 grains of grapes and natural wine or quarry, which is the sparkling Spanish wine. People also believe wearing red underwear brings good luck. After midnight, many go to a disco or remain in the streets to have fun with millions of people from around the world.

But there are also those who do not like crowds and prefer to stay at home to watch the arrival of the year on the main national television stations which broadcast the live countdown from the squares of the most important cities. So, celebrate the arrival of new year in Spain is an unforgettable experience!

In Spain the celebration of Christmas is especially felt. The festivities last from December 22 to January 6. Everything starts on 22nd with the draw of the Christmas Lottery (Lotería de Navidad), a very important event that contributes to the creation of Christmas atmosphere. The extraction starts early in the morning and is transmitted by radio and television stations. The singing of the children of the College de San Ildefonso can be felt everywhere.

On December 24 the Spanish celebrate the Christmas eve of Nochebuena, which is literally the good night. On this evening the Spaniards come together to celebrate the most important meal of the year. People usually meet at the grandparents' house. This is a very big dinner during which people eat local products and specialties of Spanish cuisine.

During the night they hear or sing villancicos, songs that express moods happy, but sometimes nostalgic and sad. Some narrate the events related to Bethlehem or the life of Jesus while others talk about daily events and feelings. For these songs are used different tools depending on the region, such as the concha de Vieira in the north coast, the zambomba in Mancha and Extremadura or castanets in Andalusia.

After dinner, Santa Claus distributes gifts to children under the tree. In Catalonia children used to receive gifts on December 25 and to give them is not Santa Claus, but the so-called tio (uncle). In general, however, on December 25, Navidad, is celebrated with a feast similar to that of the night before. On that day, the King of Spain reads the congratulatory message, broadcast on television.

After two days off the celebrations continue on December 28 the day de los Santos Inocentes, literally The Holy Innocents, during which people make jokes and tease each other.

On the evening of January 5 is a parade in which they perform los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings), that in all the towns ending in front of the town hall. On 6 January is usually the day of gifts. In fact, if during the year the children were receiving good toys that have asked in the letter to the Three Kings, or if you have misbehaved receive coal, same reward Italy's Befana. It is on this day that you eat the famous Roscon de Reyes , one of the oldest sweets of these festivals.

Here is a list of some Spanish specialties of these parties with references to their history, though not all originate in this country, in fact, some have been imported from other European states.

Similar to nougat Turrón de Jijona is a dessert that cannot be missed during the holiday season. Its spread occurred in 1887, but there is information of its production as early as 1585 in Jijona (Alicante). The name comes from the verb turrar or toast. This cake is made with almonds or walnuts, toasted and of course mixed with honey and sugar. The areas where it is most prevalent are those alicante and the Catalan.

Marzipan is a sweet introduced by the Arabs in VIII century, which at that time was made with sugar and almonds, but today the whole is enriched by powdered milk and egg yolk. Its authorship is attributed to Toledo when, during the battle against the Arabs in the times of King Alfonso VIII of Castile, some nuns of the convent of San Clemente started to produce it like bread.

Mantecados polvorones is an Andalusian sweet, traditionally prepared at the time of the killing of the pigs. It was originally developed with the lard of this animal in addition to the flour. The most famous city for its production is Seville .

Roscón de Reyes is one of the oldest sweets of the Christmas holidays, although its origins are purely pagan. In fact, during the winter holidays to Roman times they used to elect a king of the feast, and to do that was prepared a cake with figs, dates and honey to be divided and distributed to the people and slaves. Among the various slices he was hiding a dry legume (haba = stone) and the lucky, who eventually found it was named king.

This tradition came first in France and then in Spain, when King Philip V decided to introduce it during the holiday season. In the sweet instead of the legume hide small toys or dolls and everything is decorated with sugar and dried fruits. The cake is distributed to children and those who find the prize is considered the king of the feast.

Spain Travel Tips

I loved Gijon from the very first night, when it greeted me with a plate of calamari and a cider. It is not a tourist town, especially if you compare with nearby Oviedo, the most famous city of Asturias. Unlike Oviedo, it has no famous architectural and historical monuments, but Gijon is still worth a visit. The interesting thing here is the city that has a strong local identity linked to the port, industries and the ocean. And it is fiercely proud of being in the heart of Asturias.

If you decide to include Gijon in a broader trip of Asturias or Northern Spain, I think a day or two can be enough to see the most interesting spots. Here are at least five good reasons to visit Gijon, the ones that I will suggest.

The beach of San Lorenzo has long stretches with crescent oceanfront, reducing dramatically twice a day because of strong tides. When it's windy (very often, the weather is quite rainy) San Lorenzo becomes a paradise for brave surfers, and on sunny days it is a pleasure to stroll along the oceanfront.

In the historic district of Cimadevilla, a group of old traditional houses, perched on a promontory extends into the ocean. It is the ancient heart of Gijon, a fishing village of 1,500 that was often isolated by the high tide, but which still retains traces of its Roman origins. Cimadevilla is a small maze of alleys and small squares, which in the evening become very vibrant and lively thanks to the many restaurants, nightclubs and cider.

The queen of drinks in all of Asturias is cider, which is virtually on every street, in the traditional cider bars, where it becomes a real traditional rite. The cider is served by bartenders and patrons by pouring from the bottle into the glass from the highest point possible, with a very characteristic position. Many also offer tapas and simple dishes of local cuisine, often based on fish and almost always very good and inexpensive.

The Cerro Santa Catalina is the promontory on which stands the neighborhood of Cimadevilla. Climbing its hilly streets towards the sea, you can come to a large public park overlooking the ocean with a vertical cliff swept by waves and wind. Needless to tell you how fantastic the view here is, especially on days of bad weather, when the sea is rough.

A few meters from the cliff is a monument built in 1990 by Basque artist Eduardo Chillida, the Praise of the Horizonte, a giant concrete form that signals the lookout. It is much loved by the people of Gijon that have dubbed it the water King Kong.

La Semana Negra is a literary festival dedicated to crime, but also science fiction, fantasy, historical novels and comics, which takes place in early July in the former shipyard in Gijon. There is not only literature, but also concerts, plays, with kiosks and bars, markets, fireworks and a funfair with a huge Ferris wheel. A week during which the city comes alive in the best tradition of Spanish celebrations.

If you arrive in Galicia with all the prejudices about Spain we are used to hearing, you will be disappointed. So, do not expect to eat paella, the big hotels all inclusive or dance flamenco. In Vigo is a vast expanse of greenery. Of course, speaking of Galicia, there is the Santiago de Compostela with its cathedral. We have seen young people make the last meters exhausted, walking with difficulty and the most impressive moment was when they arrived on the large square in front of the Cathedral and hugged each other with those who had preceded them.