Christmas in Spain (and environs)
September 16, 2019 4:02 PM   Subscribe

I will be spending both Eve and Day in one of the following five cities: Granada, Cordoba, Madrid, Seville, Lisbon. Help me figure out which is best (or feel free to recommend your own).

• Food. Ideally we're looking for a city with some number of restaurants that will be open (if Spain or Portugal have any).
• Any charming cultural events that I might not know about.
posted by queen anne's remorse to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total)
Having been to Granada and Lisbon, I found both had passable food with occasional treats to try.

However, if you are a foodie and want to go to Spain and are open to ideas San Sebastian is a must visit above all.
posted by Karaage at 5:01 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

• Food. Ideally we're looking for a city with some number of restaurants that will be open (if Spain or Portugal have any).

Dinner on the 24th and lunch on the 25th will be difficult because they're family gatherings and many restaurants will be closed. A big city will be better, but I'd advise you to reserve beforehand. Be prepared to eat at Chinese buffets/restaurants on these days.

• Any charming cultural events that I might not know about.

As You Know, in Spain it's the Three Wise Men/ Three Kings who bring presents to children on the night of the 5th-6th of January, so every town does a Desfile de Reyes (Wise Men Parade) on the 5th in the early evening. Before that, the kings' pages and couriers do the equivalent of mall Santas and collect the children's letters.*

Aside from that, we got into Nativity scenes from when Spain owned Naples so you might find exposiciones de belenes, a display of one or many of either posh or complicated miniature recreations of half Bethlehem first century AD, half Spanish countryside circa 1750 (meaning: there are both Roman legionnaries and Spanish peasants carrying pigs to market).

Because of that, Christmas markets are mainly concerned with stuff for your home belén (buildings, figures, diorama aids like moss or fake snow) and Christmas tree decorations (not as spectacular here as in Germany).

So it's a bit early to know a particular city's plans for next Christmas but just to give you a taste, this is a belenes route for Madrid last Christmas. The most spectacular belén is the one in the Palacio Real, don't forget to visit.

* Wokeness hasn't arrived fully to Spain. While the Three Kings are intended to represent the three known parts of the ancient world (Gaspar for Asia/Near East, Melchor for Europe, Baltasar for Africa) in a spirit of inclusivity, before the 1990s there was almost no African-descended population in Spain so blackface for King Baltasar and his court was usual, sometimes with gruesome results when the major of Madrid wanted to play Baltasar. Nowadays it's become more common to ask the local Nigerian or Senegalese communities if someone wants to play Baltasar or a courtier but I can't guarantee you won't be seeing blackface.
posted by sukeban at 12:05 AM on September 17, 2019

As for food itself, every region has its own Christmas menu speciality but it's home cooking and you won't usually find it in restaurants. Your best bet is to sample turrones from traditional pastelerías.

Andalucía is the originary of a variety of Christmastime sweets like polvorones, mantecados and mazapanes/marzipan (particularly "Pan de Cádiz", a big lump of marzipan) but they are also found all over Spain. Sevilla also has a strong tradition of Christmas sweets sold by nuns from their convents.
posted by sukeban at 12:19 AM on September 17, 2019

We did this exact trip a couple years ago. Granada, Cordoba and Seville don't have much in the way of restaurants, and the ones they do closed early on a regular day. I doubt they'd be open on Xmas Eve and Day. You'd more likely be better off in Madrid or Lisbon.
posted by Everydayville at 1:16 PM on September 17, 2019

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