Who Stole Christmas?

Do you ever get that feeling that you missed something really important? Or think, “I must get that organised in time for Christmas…” only to realise it’s already happened?

I love living on the Costa del Sol but let’s face it, Christmas just isn’t the same. The anticipation and madness that precede the actual event are nothing like what you experience growing up in the UK. In Spain it’s more subtle, dare I say refined, reserved and, let’s face it – warm! Perhaps even the renowned detester of tinsel, etiquette expert William Hanson would even appreciate the Spanish way of celebrating the festive season.

The lights in each town are festively beautiful rather than gaudy. The new trend for light and sound shows as seen in Malaga and now San Pedro are stunning but not tacky! There are no houses bursting at the seams with multi-coloured lights, overgrown santas and singing reindeer to distract drivers as they pass by. There’s no hint of tinsel laden living rooms peeking out from between the curtains as soon as the flames from Bonfire Night are put out. And on Christmas Eve, the streets are quiet and free from drunken revellers and instead the Spanish enjoy each other’s company at an important family meal.

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Yet, while the Brits are racing to take down their decorations on Twelfth Night, the Spanish have really only just warmed up ready for the main event. Their children are awaiting the arrival of the Three Kings who parade through towns throwing down sweets on 5th January before delivering presents to well behaved children who are fast asleep during the dead of night. On 6th families once again get together to exchange presents and to eat and be merry finishing off with a Roscón de Reyes (with bean and toy hidden inside much like sixpence pieces in puddings before the Christmas “Elf and Safety” crew put a stop to it).

I’ve often pitied Spanish children who have to wait until a day or two before they go back to school to receive their long awaited Christmas presents. It always seemed like a waste of two weeks playing time. But in actual fact it all makes perfect sense now as the novelty of the new toys and gadgets lasts much longer as they have to fit recreation around being back at school.

For us, Christmas was pretty much a right off this year! The flu virus hit our household just in time for our youngest daughter’s second birthday on 22nd (didn’t happen) while a gastro bug floored our eldest on Christmas morning leading to a much muted Christmas stocking discovery session. Thank goodness for Three Kings granting us a second opportunity to get it right (and for our two year old not understanding enough of what was going on to forgive her mummy for not wrapping her presents or making her a birthday cake this time round!).

We joined our local village Three Kings procession, collected sweets in our carrier bags, cheered when our daughters’ names were called out to collect their presents from Balthazar and celebrated with a family meal the next day. There may have been more Christmas Pudding than Roscón de Reyes, and the children still received the bulk of their presents on 25th rather than 6th January but we feel for the first time ever that we paid homage to the country we now call home rather than sticking to the foreigner’s way.

Having said that, my Christmas decorations came down very swiftly on 6th – you can have too much of a good thing…