Dining the Spanish way on Christmas Eve

Cordoro Asada, Roast Lamb, is just one of the main courses that could be served,






Cordoro Asada, Roast Lamb, is just one of the main courses that could be served.


Here in Spain, the main family festive meal is enjoyed fairly late tonight, often at 9 or even 10pm. It is known as La Noche Buena, which translates literally as The Good Night. It means as much or even more here than Christmas Day lunch or dinner elsewhere. But if you are expecting turkey stuffing and all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding or mince pies, then I am sorry to disappoint you but you need to think again.

Still, I have done some research and, while there is no standard traditional meal, I have come up with some ideas of what families could be about to enjoy tonight. Take a look:

Tapas or Appetizers (two examples):

  • Jamón, Queso y Chorizo – Ham, Cheese and Spanish Chorizo Sausage on bread.
  • Langostinos con Salsa Rosa – Langoustines or large prawns are boiled, then served with a slightly spicy salsa rosa or pink sauce.

Primer Plato or First Course (one of these five examples, not all!):

  • Sopa de Pescado y Marisco – Fish and Shellfish Soup, served with French bread slices.
  • Sopa de Carabineros – Creamy Spanish Prawn Soup if you prefer a creamy soup. It is full of ‘carabineros’ (large shrimp) and fish, mixed with fish stock and tarragon.
  • Esparragos Blancos – White Asparagus: White asparagus with oil and vinegar.
  • Ensalada de Endibia con Vinagreta – Endive Salad in Tomato Vinaigrette.
  • Spanish Romesco Seafood Pasta Salad.

Plato Principal – Main Course:

In Spain, this is called segundo plato, the ‘second’ course. Beef, lamb, poultry or game can be served with rice or potatoes, such as:

  • Cordero Asado, Patatas Fritas y Ensalada Mixta – Roast Lamb, Home-Fried Potatoes, lightly fried in extra virgin olive oil, and Mixed Green Salad.

Postre – Dessert

Selections of delicious Spanish treats such as:

One of the varieties of traditional Turrón.

One of the varieties of traditional Turrón candy.

  • TurrónSpanish almond candy.
  • Polvorones – Almond cookies.
  • Mantecados – Spanish crumble cakes.

Drinks with the meal

No Spanish Christmas would be complete without several toasts and a few glasses of cava sparkling wine. Spanish cava is generally good quality and reasonably priced.

After dinner dishes, it’s time for a hot cup of espresso coffee and/or a small glass of Spanish sherry brandy or a liqueur.

Has that got your mouth watering and taste buds tingling? Lisa’s and mine most certainly are.

Bon apetito.


Building up to Christmas – part three: It’s really close now

christmas living room

Two days until Christmas Day and we are still receiving deliveries of the various household items that Lisa and I need in our new home. In an ideal world, they would have all arrived by now but there are still a number of things outstanding.

Just two days ago we had a bumper delivery of 11 separate parcels and packages from a variety of suppliers, that all arrived together in the same van. We had quite a time opening all those, discovering what was inside and putting them to good use.

The spare beds are resplendent with their new duvets, duvet covers and pillowcases, for example, while we can now sit on our terrace and enjoy the sun on our new outdoor furniture. Yes, I know it is almost Christmas but sitting outdoors here, even in late December, is quite comfortable. Having said that, daytime temperatures now have the Spanish and other long-term residents reaching for warmer clothes, while those here on holiday/vacation as well as residents who are newly arrived, like us, are happy wearing summer clothing.

Anyway, it seems I have digressed so time to get back to the main thrust of this post. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the major day of celebration here in Spain with families enjoying their main festive meal at home during the evening.

On Christmas Day itself, many families choose to go out to eat and, this year, Lisa and I will be doing just that. Acting on advice from neighbours, we have left nothing to chance and made a reservation at the new El Faro restaurant in Villaricos. It is closed on Christmas Eve for the family’s own festive celebration but is open on the Christmas Day itself.

One of the reasons we have decided to eat out is that we are still waiting for our new cooker to be installed – and that will not now be until the New Year. We do have an old working stove, so there is no need to worry – we are not without cooking facilities. Another reason to eat out on Christmas Day is to give Lisa a day off. She tells me that she deserves it!

Right now, our pre-Christmas time seems to be mainly divided between heading into one or another of our nearby towns, shopping and relaxing at home – often watching one of the many seasonal films available on our broadband television set up.

Finally, Lisa and I would like to wish all our family and friends in the USA, UK or wherever they may be, as well as my blog readers and social media followers, the very Merriest of Christmases – or, as they say here in Spain:

Feliz Navidad

Christmas in Spain so unlike USA or UK

three kings

As the festive season approaches, it looks like Lisa and I will experience a totally different Christmas this year, especially since Santa Claus in Spain is called Papa Noel and he does not bring toys to children like he does elsewhere.

The gift bringers of the Spanish Christmas are the Three Wise Men or Los Tres Reyes Magos. This happens on Three Kings’ Day – January 6.

Spain is a deeply religious country in which Christianity, and in particular the Roman Catholic church, is predominant. It should come as no real surprise, therefore, that it has a noticeably different approach towards Christmas than in countries such as the USA or the UK.

Here in Spain, Christmas is not such a huge commercial event. Town centre Christmas lights are not usually lit until the first week of December, by which time shops are well stocked with seasonal goodies. However, it is nothing like other places where the build-up begins as early as September.

At home, Christmas trees are a common sight but they don’t tend to make an appearance until the second half of December. Also, emphasizing the religious importance of the festival, very many homes will have miniature nativity scenes called Belénes. These depict life in Bethlehem at the time of the birth of Jesus and each Belén always includes the key characters of the nativity – the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph as well as the Three Kings, Baltasar, Melchior and Gaspar.

Being such a Christian country, it may be surprising that the traditional seasonal celebrations have pagan roots. On the winter solstice, or shortest day, which is also the pagan festival of Yule, the celebration of Hogueras (bonfires) takes place. This involves people jumping through fires to protect themselves against illness. Pagans have a long tradition of including bonfires as an important part of their Yule celebrations.

Throughout Spain people will not be far from a TV or radio on December 22 as the Christmas lottery is drawn over a period of many hours. Most people seem to buy tickets in the hope of winning El Gordo (the fat one) and the winning number usually means that a good number of people from the same village become a lot better off overnight. As well as three large prizes there are thousands of smaller ones.

Christmas Eve is called Nochebuena (Goodnight) and it is the most important family gathering of the year. In the evening people often meet early for a few drinks with friends then return home to enjoy a meal with the family. This is the main festive meal, which is followed by a trip to church for the Midnight Mass ceremony.

Children may receive a small gift on Nochebuena or on the morning of Christmas Day but the real day for presents is January 6, Epiphany, when the Three Kings brought their gifts to Jesus and, today, bring gifts for the children. In fact, children write letters to the Three Kings, like UK and USA children write to Santa. To children in Spain, the Three Kings are more important than Santa.

Christmas Day is, of course, a national holiday in Spain so shops are closed but it is not a day of great celebration but rather a calm day after the major family festivity the previous evening. There’s another large family meal for lunch or, maybe, it’s time to eat out in the afternoon.