Christmas is the most magical time of the year to visit Madrid: Cheerful lights, famous Christmas Markets, New Year’s Eve 12 grapes of luck tradition, hot chocolate, and the evening of January 5th, when the three Wise Men or Kings visit Spanish people’s homes and leave presents for everyone who were well-behaved during the year.
If you are lucky enough to visit Madrid during the Holiday Season, you will have the opportunity to experience some of the unique Christmas traditions. All over Europe, Christmas Markets abound, but the unique style of Madrid Christmas markets will make your holidays in the Spanish capital memorable. Plaza Mayor square has hosted the most famous Christmas market (Mercado de Navidad) in Madrid since the 19th century. It features over 100 tiny red stalls, where you can buy handmade gifts, decorations, and nativity scene figurines. The Plaza Mayor is also home to a large, luminous Christmas tree. Every balcony overlooking the square has a beautiful wreath and giant candle lights run along the exterior of every apartment.
Christmas decorations and sparkling window displays transform the city, and magic fills the air. The streets, squares, and houses are illuminated with millions of light bulbs that meet the most stringent environmental and energy-efficient requirements. Famous designers, architects, and graphic designers create the Christmas illumination in the city, which can be called a ‘light fashion show”. Just outside the iconic Metropolis building sits a giant Christmas bauble that plays loud Christmas songs and illustrates moving animations across its surface in the form of lights. Madrid Christmas lights start on the last Friday of November and end on January 6th, the day after the Three Kings Parade that marks the end of Christmas time.
The Three Kings Parade procession begins on the evening of January 5th, at around 6 pm on San Juan de la Cruz and descends along the Boulevard Castalla to Cibeles Square, where at 8:45 pm, the Magi bring the glad tidings of the birth of the Saviour. The Three Wise Kings are not alone; more than 2,000 acrobats, musicians, and dancers liven up the celebration. The arrival of the Three Kings, the Spanish equivalent to Santa Claus, is more important than celebrating Christmas for some families who wait until then to open their presents, said to have been brought by the Wise Men. Just a few days before the Three Kings’ arrival, Spaniards celebrate the arrival of the New Year with another tradition: “The 12 grapes of luck”.
If you’ve ever spent New Year’s Eve in Spain, I guess you’ve already heard about the huge importance of the 12 grapes tradition. Yes, it’s a big thing, and yes, everyone takes it seriously. If you still have no idea what I am talking about, do not worry since I found out just a few days ago. According to the tradition, it is believed that whoever eats 12 grapes as the bells chime at midnight on December 31st (one for each of the twelve chimes) will have a lucky and prosperous year. The 12 grapes date back from around 1895 but became established in 1909. Eating the grapes pretty much guarantees a start of the new year with an adrenaline rush and most likely some laughs. While the goal of getting the 12 grapes down in time can spark a contest of who is ‘mas macho’ around the table, the biggest challenge is more likely not to be gagging as you stuff them in your mouth and try to swallow while laughing hysterically.
The Christmas Holiday is an extraordinary time, and Madrid likes to celebrate it in grand style. The celebrations in Spain are expected to be bigger and better than ever this year. To receive additional information about this year’s festivities, contact Madrid Convention Bureau.