New Year In Spain - How The Spanish Celebrate The New Year Expat Tips

New Years Eve or Noche Vieja (Old Night) as the Spanish call it, is the complete opposite to Christmas day, with huge celebrations taking part all over the country. Hotels and clubs hold special parties and it isn't uncommon to see street parties taking place.

Generally people stay at home until just before the strike of midnight. This is when they go and congregate in the local town squares to hear the church bells ring and to see the fireworks exploding in the night sky, marking the end of one year and welcoming in another.

When 12 O'clock approaches it is customary to eat 12 grapes, this is done on each stroke of the clock to bring good luck for the new year ahead. These are then washed down with many celebratory bottles of Cava. As this is such a tradition you can actually buy cava glasses filled with 12 grapes in all supermarkets and many smaller stores across Spain.

Another tradition that takes place on this night and to bring good luck for the year ahead, is the wearing of red underwear. The stores and supermarkets all over Spain become a sea of red with every style of underwear that you could imagine being sold.

So as long as you have your 12 grapes, your bottle of Cava and your red underwear you're ready to celebrate the night away until after sunrise!

After all the partying that takes place on New Years Eve, January 1st, as you can imagine is a very quiet, low key public holiday, with many a person sleeping off their hangover or just catching up on their sleep.

The next day for celebrations is the 5th January. At around 8pm on this day, all over Spain, processions take place to mark the eve of The Feast of the Epiphany, known fondly as Three Kings Day. Floats decorated in different themes parade through the towns with people aboard throwing sweets into the waiting crowds. This is serious business as people hold out their bags and upturned umbrellas to catch the thousands of sweets that are thrown. Be sure to get there early as the streets become extremely packed an hour or two before the parade begins.

The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on 6th January. This is the day the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem and it is the one day of the year, that children all over Spain really look forward to. This is the day that children wake early to find their presents left by Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings/ Wise Men).

The Three Kings, Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar are loved by all children but Balthazar is their favourite, as he is the one believed to deliver their presents.

During the day of the 6th January, the Three Kings make visits all over Spain, to children that are in hospital. Whilst families celebrate together with family meals and a traditional Spanish cake that is sold all over Spain. The ring shaped pastry known as Roca de Reyes is covered in sugar and fruit flavoured jellies and in a similar way to how we place a coin in our Christmas pudding, the Spanish place plastic toys and presents inside the cake. Anyone lucky enough to find one of the little gifts is treated like a king for the day and is said to be blessed with good luck for the year ahead.

As the festivities of the day draw to a close, the children prepare to return to school and their parents prepare to return to work the very next day. Christmas in Spain is over once again until the same time next year!

Images courtesy of Alice Harold and Paul and Jill on Flickr.