Saturday, December 8, 2012

Today I learned about the Spanish Magi: Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar

Posted by Daniexmachina

Continuing along with our lessons about other countries' Christmas traditions, we come to Spain. In Spain, the children believe the three wise men, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar, bring their gifts. The wise men arrive in town on January 5th and the people come out to see them ride through. They give out gifts and candy along the procession and then everyone goes home. The children leave hay or barley in their shoes for the camels. In the morning, the food is gone and they find candy or small presents in their shoes. 

Christmas season in Spain officially begins on the 8th of December with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The feast is celebrated with a ceremony in front of a cathedral in Seville where a ritual dance called los Seises is performed. Although los Seises means the dance of the six, it is actually performed by ten boys in elaborate costumes. 

Most homes have a large manger scene, like you would find in a church. They gather around it and sing while the children play tambourines and dance. The Spanish have special respect for the cow at Christmas. They believe the cow breathed on baby Jesus and kept him warm. What a nice critter!

There is one tradition the Spanish have that isn't found anywhere else in the entire world! It's called Hogueras (bonfires) and it dates back to pre-Christian Spain. In observance of the Winter Solstice, people will jump over bonfires in order to protect against illness. You can still see fire-jumpers mainly in Grenada and Jaen. 

On Christmas Eve, families gather and prepare the dinner for later. At midnight, bells will ring, calling the families to La Misa de Gallo (The Mass of the Rooster). Following the service, it is finally time to eat! They serve Pavo Trufado de Navidad (Christmas turkey with truffles). Following dinner, the people will gather in the streets and dance the Jota, a special Christmas dance with words and motions that have been passed down for hundreds of years. Those who are not dancing either watch or play guitar or castanets. Then the family will gather around the tree and sing Christmas carols. The celebration goes on until early in the morning. 

Christmas Day is spent at church, with family eating food or just enjoying each other's company. Another tradition that is original to Spain is 'swinging' on Christmas Day. Swings are set up in courtyards and young people swing as they sing and talk. 

Before Epiphany arrives, bringing the Magi, there is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. During this day, boys from the town light bonfires while one acts as the mayor and instructs citizens to perform civic chores, like sweeping the streets. People must obey or they pay a fine, which contributes to the next year's feast. Feliz Navidad! 


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