The Most Epic Christmas Traditions in Barcelona To Experience in 2018
Christmas season is a truly wonderful time to visit Barcelona, the Catalan capital. The avalanche summer of summer tourists has disappeared. Hotel prices are lower than usual. The atmosphere is so festive and joyful that can’t help but be happy. This post is about the most memorable Christmas traditions in Barcelona you have to experience. Find out about the famous Barcelona Christmas markets, Caga Tio, Three Kings parade, and more. Read on to find out the top things to do if you’re visiting Barcelona over Christmas.
First, let’s clear up the logistical stuff.
What’s the weather like in Barcelona in the winter?
Barcelona is not the place to go if you’re looking for a white Christmas. In the fall and winter, the temperatures drop to the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit. On the coldest days, intense winds blow from the Mediterranean sea, adding to the wind chill factor. It rains occasionally, but you won’t experience much if any snow.
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What should you wear in Barcelona during the winter?
You’ll want to pack some coats, scarfs, leather boots, gloves, sweaters, thick socks, earmuffs, and other warm clothing. If you get cold easily like me, take a puffy winter jacket and some leggings to wear underneath your jeans. Remember to dress in layers – maybe a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater, and then a coat or jacket. Take an umbrella with you as well. Learn more about what to wear in Spain in the fall.
How do you get around Barcelona?
Barcelona has a well-developed public transportation system. You can get around via metro, bus, tram, train, or just walking. The city is very walkable so you can pretty much get around everywhere on foot. There are some hilly areas though, like Bunkers del Carmen and the famous Gaudi site, Park Guell. Those require a bit of a climb, but overall the city is flat and very easy to get around. Consider getting portable WiFi so you can use Google Maps to travel more easily. For a limited time, you can enter my Thanksgiving giveaway to win the Tep Wireless Pocket WiFi device! Follow the instructions below to enter in seconds!
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The Most Fascinating Christmas Traditions in Barcelona
Spain is a majority Catholic country so a lot of the Christmas traditions are church-related. That said, there are some unique and quirky Catalan Christmas traditions. Let’s go over the 6 most memorable Christmas traditions to experience in Barcelona.
Tio de Nadal (Poop Log)
The Tio de Nadal (which is Catalan for ‘Christmas log’) is a character that plays a big role during Christmas in Catalunya. In the context of Christmas, ‘tio’ refers to a log or tree trunk. In Castellano (the Spanish dialect spoken in Spain) tio means ‘uncle’ but is also used colloquially as ‘dude’ or ‘guy.’ Tio de Nadal means ‘Chrismas log’ or ‘Christmas tree trunk,’ as opposed to Uncle Christmas or Christmas dude.
Tio de Nadal is one of the most bizarre and amusing Christmas traditions in Catalunya (and there are a lot of them!) Also known as Tio Caga (pooping log), this tree trunk poops out presents for children during Christmas. Yes, you heard that right. Let me try to explain this wacky tradition.
Every Christmas in Catalunya, families get a log that’s about 1 foot long and has a wide circumference. Then they paint one end of it with a smiley face. The painted log is then stored at home starting on December 8th, which is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The children feed Tio de Nadal candy every day until Christmas. They believe that the more the feed Tio Caga, the more presents he will give them on Christmas day. When Christmas Day comes along, the children take Tio de Nadal to the fireplace. Then they hit it with sticks while singing the Caga Tio song that goes like this:
Avellanes i mató,
Si no cagues bé et daré un cop de bastó.
This roughly translates to:
Poop sweet confections
Hazelnuts and cheese
If you don’t poop well
I’ll give you a beating.
After hitting Tio de Nadal as much as they can, the children go to another room to pray for presents. When they return to the fireplace, they will find all sorts of candy and turron (nougats), which Tio de Nadal has apparently pooped out.
That’s how the tradition goes, but during Christmas in Barcelona, you’ll find Tio de Nadal out in the open getting hit by children. It should be fun to watch.
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El Caganer (Pooping Christmas Man)
Following in the poop tradition of Catalunya is the Caganer. This cheeky little man to show up at the holy Nativity Scene, uninvited. As if that’s not bad enough, he drops his pants and relieves himself. Right in front of newborn Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! What a naughty little fella.
El Caganer is normally dressed like a peasant, an ode to Catalunya’s working class. The act of pooping is seen as good luck because it fertilizes the soil. That’s partly why people from Cataluñya don’t see defecation as something offensive or gross. Making fun of poop is a part of their sense of humor.
In addition to the traditional peasant version of El Caganer, you’ll find lots of pooping figurines of famous people. You’ll find statuettes of Barack Obama, the Pope, Amy Winehouse, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kate Middleton, Prince William, the Queen, and tons of other celebrities. Maybe you could buy a couple of them as a silly present for your friends.
Barcelona Christmas Markets 2018
Like most European cities, Barcelona rolls out its ornately-decorated Christmas markets every December to January. At these markets, you can eat, drink, shop for souvenirs, and explore the dozens of stalls offering all sorts of arts and crafts. Here the Barcelona Christmas markets you can’t miss:
Fira de Santa Llúcia
This is Barcelona’s original Christmas fair, which dates back more than 200 years! It takes place by the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Eulalia, more commonly known as the Barcelona Cathedral. Located in the Gothic Quarter, the Fira de Santa Llucia features dozens of stalls selling Christmas decorations, handmade crafts, figurines, jewelry, and the popular Caganer statuettes. This market opens in late November and ends in at around Christmas Eve. The operating hours are 10:30 am to 8:30 pm.
Location: Avenida de la Catedral, Barri Gotic
Dates: November 24th to December 23rd
Hours of operation: 10:30 am to 8:30 pm
Fira de Nadal de La Sagrada Familia
With the iconic La Sagrada Familia Basilica as its backdrop, the Fira de Nadal de La Sagrada Familia is truly one of a kind. It’s among the top Christmas markets you must visit in Barcelona, having been around for over 50 years. This market is actually an extension of the Santa Llucia market. They ran out of space in the Gothic Quarter so organizers decided to set up shop in the Eixample neighborhood.
There are over 100 stalls selling traditional Christmas decor and gifts. You’ll also find lots of food stalls selling Spanish treats like turron (nougats) and caramelos (candy.) This article goes more in depth about the different types of stalls at Fira de La Sagrada Familia.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see Papa Noel, Santa Claus, stop by to collect children’s letters and hand out gifts – mainly balloons and candy. The Fira de Nadal de La Sagrada Familia runs from November 26th until December 23rd. The operating hours are 10 am to 9 pm daily.
Location: Pl Sagrada Família, 1, Barcelona 08013
Dates: November 26th to December 23rd
Hours of Operation: 10 am to 9 pm
Fira de Placa de Catalunya
Located at the central Placa de Catalunya, this is a lively and fun Christmas fair that’s for families. The fair also promotes sustainability through its annual Responsible Consumption Fair that takes place within the larger fair. Given the sustainability theme, the crafts and gifts you’ll find here will be made from recycled and environmentally-friendly materials. This market gets quite packed due to its central location. Note that this market starts and ends later than the previous two.
Location: Pl de Catalunya
Dates: December 17th to January 4th
Hours of Operation: 10 am to 9 pm
Copa de Nadal de Natació (Christmas Day Swimming Competition)
At noon on Christmas Day, some brave souls dive into the freezing Mediterranean Sea and compete in a 200-meter race. This race has been a tradition for over 100 years. Known as the Copa Nadal, the competition takes place at the Barcelona Harbor. You’ll see some participants decked out in full Santa Claus suits or clown costume. What a spectacle. Should you wish to participate, meet up with the organizers and other contestants at the Christopher Columbus Statue. Make sure to get there at least 30 minutes before the race starts to claim your spot. If you’re like me, you could just watch the spectacle while snacking on some turron.
La Cabalgata de Reyes Magos (Three Kings Parade)
The Three Kings Parade is the biggest Christmas event in Spain. It’s even bigger than Christmas Day! Known as El Dia de Los Reyes Magos in Spanish, this parade has drawn criticism due to the use of Black Face. I’ve written about racism in Spain and pointed out that blackface is still a common practice there. That said, some in Spain are finally catching up on cultural sensitivity. In 2015, over 60,000 people signed a petition to ban the use of Blackface at Madrid parades.
Basically, the Three Kings are the Three Wise Men who took gifts to newborn Jesus. Those are the real stars of the show during Christmas in Spain, not Santa Claus. One of the three kings, Balthazar, is black. So every Christmas Spanish men put on blackface to portray him. Unfortunately, Spaniards, in general, don’t see anything problematic about this practice and just regard it as tradition. The Three Kings Parade is a huge event that’s worth checking out. I just wanted to bring this up so you’re not taken aback when you see a man in blackface.
The parade will start at Port Vell at 4 pm on January 5th, 2019. The Three Kings arrive at the port to collect letters from children. After that, their float continues its journey throughout the city. The Three Kings throw out candy as they ride through the city, passing thousands of zealous fans.
There you have it – the most unique Christmas traditions in Barcelona to experience during your visit.
Which of these Christmas traditions surprised you the most?
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