Thursday morning, I’ll be on a plane bound for the United States. Like the eve of every big trip, I have a million things to do. I meant to start packing on Monday, but this week, I’ve been busy celebrating Christmas in Spain.
Image Credit: Felipe Ortega (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)
Like Halloween, schools have their own way of celebrating Christmas in Spain. It’s always fun to learn how other cultures celebrate holidays, and this week, I’ve been comparing celebrating Christmas in Spain to what I remember about my holiday parties in elementary school in the States.
El Festival de Navidad
El Festival de Navidad (Christmas festival) is a big deal in just about every primary school in Spain. The students and teachers begin preparing for the festival right after Halloween. So, yes, that means we’ve been singing Christmas carols since the first week of November.
This year, the bilingual classes decided to sing songs in English. At one school, I helped teach the class “I’m the Happiest Christmas Tree”. At the other, I helped teach “Must Be Santa”. The music teachers choreographed a dance for each song.
I rearranged my work schedule, so I could attend both festivals. It was so much fun! One group was dressed up as Christmas trees and the other as Papá Noel (Santa Claus). It was cool to see how much pride each class put into their performance. The acts varied from traditional Spanish carols and dances to Stomp-esque percussion.
Chocolate con churros
Of course, what’s the Christmas season without some sweet treats?! On the last day of school before the break, parents bring churros con chocolate for the whole school to enjoy. They even bring some gluten-free churros to accommodate the children with dietary restrictions!
Churros, for those of you who have never tasted this beloved Spanish snack, are lightly-sugared fried dough sticks, which you dip in a cup of piping hot chocolate. Sugar? Fried? Chocolate? YUM. It’s no wonder the kids go crazy for them!
Los Reyes Magos
I remember writing letters to Santa Claus when I was little and addressing them to him at the North Pole. In class Wednesday, the second graders wrote Christmas letters but not to Santa. They wrote their letters to Los Reyes Magos.
In Spain, Los Reyes Magos (the Three Wise Men) bring good girls and boys presents on Jan. 6. In recent years, Papá Noel has started to visit homes on Dec. 25, but traditionally, it’s good ol’ Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar bringing gifts by camelback just like they brought to Jesus in Bethlehem.
In addition to asking for toys, the students were instructed to request general gifts for the world. Some of my favorites were “an end to all wars” and “food for every hungry child”. Awwww. On the last day of school (Dec. 22), Los Reyes Magos will visit the school, and the students will have the opportunity to meet them, take pictures and hand deliver their letters.
Celebrating Christmas in Spain
Celebrating Christmas in Spanish schools is one of my favorite Spain memories to date. The students’ joy is contagious. This might sound kind of cheesy, but I feel like my holiday spirit has been renewed.
Have you ever celebrated Christmas abroad? If you did so while teaching English like me, how did your school’s holiday traditions differ from the ones your grew up with?