A Very Catalan Christmas – The Festive Period in Barcelona
In our opinion, Christmas really is one of the most wonderful times of the year in Barcelona. From the life-sized nativity scenes dotted throughout the city’s squares (the walk-through crèche to be found in the heart of the Gothic Cathedral is particularly impressive), to the pageantry of the Three Kings’ Parade on the evening of the 5th January, when their majesties alight from distant lands aboard a resplendent tall ship or the cavalcada, the mystery and exoticism of Barcelona at this time of year is unparalleled.
Without further ado, here is our Christmas inventory of eating, drinking, keeping the children happy and staying merry in the festive season:
Though it may lower the tone, we mention him at the top of our list, as Catalunya’s Christmas countdown is yet to begin until one spots this curious chap peeping out from a public square or windowsill on high.
One of the region’s more obscure festive customs, the Caga Tió is a friendly wooden log with two short stumpy front legs sporting a cheeky grin and a traditional red Catalan hat. A much admired phenomenon in homes, primary schools and Christmas fairs across Catalunya, children deposit raisins and other delicious treats to “fatten him up” throughout December.
Then, when the time comes, our poor friend is then abruptly walloped with a stick (much like a piñata) whilst the children sing, until the blanket covering his posterior is lifted to unveil a pile of gifts! The Ayuntamiento de Barcelona’s official Caga Tió occupies the Plaza de la Catedral opposite the Gothic Cathedral. Expect a lengthy queue at peak times – he is mighty popular! He will be pooping treats for the under 12s from 10.30 am to 1.30 pm on week days, and from 10.30 am to 1.30 pm and 4.30 pm to 7 pm on weekends.
Europe’s largest covered festive ice rink has appeared almost overnight in its new spot in Hospitalet. Formerly occupying the iconic Plaça Catalunya, this popular attraction has expanded, relocating to La Farga exhibition space, leaving room for a gigantic 40m2 ice slide, food trucks and ice sculpture competitions!
Aptly titled BarGELona, this colossal rink now covers an impressive 4,000 m2, and will host extreme sports competitions like ice hockey (and the not so extreme “street curling”), with live music, exhibitions and a chill out zone for teenagers. The space is filled with glimmering lights and a flow of fantastic music one can’t help but shimmy along to. There is even a (not so) tiny kiddie rink for little ones (complete with shuffling penguin frames to help tots remain upright).
Theatre – El Petit Príncep
The musical El Petit Príncep returns to Barcelona for the 3rd year running. Suitable for age four upwards, the production combines different musical styles with the latest visual techniques. Through the use of mappings, projections and animations, the spectator is transported to different magical worlds. An aviator, crashes with his aeroplane in the middle of the Sahara desert. While he is trying to repair it, a little boy appears and asks him to draw a sheep. The author learns that The Little Prince comes from asteroid B-612 where he has left behind three volcanoes and a rose. Before reaching Earth, he has visited other planets and met some very odd people: a king, a conceited man, a drunkard, a lamplighter, a geographer…..
Tickets from €15.
The show is in Catalan.
Teatro Barts, Avinguda del Paral·lel, 62
From 02/12/2016 to 08/01/2017
Living Nativity at Poble Espanyol
From 8-11 December and during the Christmas holidays, the complex will be decorated especially for Christmas. You will find a huge Christmas market and several living nativity scenes will be staged on Saturday the 10th and Sunday the 11th – 12pm to 2 pm and from 4pm to 6pm. There will be lots of activites for children: Santa’s house, a magic show, animation, ecological attractions and workshops.
Christmas Market – Fira de Reis
One of Barcelona’s oldest, biggest, and most bustling Christmas markets is the Fira dels Reis runs from 21st December to 6th January along Gran Vía (from C/Muntaner to C/Calàbria). This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy the city’s traditional festive atmosphere and indulge in some yummy local treats with friends and family. There is an impressive array of local crafts, foodie products, handy for last minute Christmas gifts with a Catalan twist (try saying that fast three times).
Christmas Market – Fira Santa Llúcia
This long-established Christmas fair has taken over the vast square beneath the imposing silhouette of Barcelona’s Gothic Cathedral since 1786. You will find the largest collection of Nativity figurines for sale in Catalunya, carved and painted by artisans from across the region. Make like a local and carefully select your chosen statuettes from the comprehensive medley, which range from the classic miniature baby Jesus to the outlandish Caganer. A quintessentially Catalan figure, the Caganer is a mysterious character who squats in the corner of the nativity stable (said to bring a fertile harvest). This defecating trickster comes in many forms – from well-known footballers and politicians to a typical Catalan peasant, and represents the absurdity of life even in the most serious (and in this case, divine) of situations.
From 3rd December, the Carassa de Nadal, a masked figure that walks between the stalls, spitting out sweets for children, will be strolling around the Santa Lucia Fair, carried by various popular culture groups from the city. There is no fixed route, just listen for the music of the gralles to determine its whereabouts.
For those seeking a contemporary, upscale departure from traditional Christmas markets, Barcelona’s pop-up scene has flourished in recent years, offering a considerable evolution from the conventional gift-buying experience.
Palo Alto Christmas Market
This hipster street market offers a Doble Edición this month – 3rd/4th and 17th/18th December to celebrate it’s second birthday. Housed within a former factory, the sprawling market extends across 3,700m², where interior design and local artists converge with Barcelona-based fashion designers and innovative concepts galore. With a quirky blend of vintage and new products on offer, there will also be workshops a-plenty. we just have activities for children during this weekend.
A solidarity workshop organised by the NGO Pallapupas (www.pallapupas.org) on behalf of children in Catalan hospitals will be on the 3rd and 4th . Children of all ages will be able to make its own “Pallapupas smiles” that will help the NGO in its work with children that are hospitalized during the Christmas period.
One for discerning bargain hunters and old souls alike, Two Market stocks some of the most affordable second hand treasures to be found in all the land (and certainly in Barcelona – with a special “everything for one euro” deal). The philosophy is that reuse is the best way to recycle. Visitors to the market’s special Christmas edition are sure to unearth unique nostalgic Christmas gifts with covetable deals galore.
4 December, 11am – 5pm
Brainchild of the good folks at trilingual publication BCNmes, Eat Street is the original Street Food market in Barcelona. Cresting the Street Food movement’s wave of popularity, this roving open-air festival of global gastronomy has received well-merited hype in Barcelona, where miscellaneous food trucks are the hotspots du jour.
Christmas special is Saturday 17th December 12pm – 11pm
La Nau Bostik, c/ Ferran Turné 11, La Sagrera
The first sojourn on any culinary enthusiast’s whistle-stop tour of Catalan gastronomy should be an excursion to the Boqueria market. Remarkable year-round, the market really comes into its own at this time of year and is a must for anyone yearning to absorb the city’s festive atmosphere.
Begin with a gentle initiation and people-watch from the side-lines with a crispy glass of cava before delving into the market’s bustling aisles, narrowly avoiding dangling hams and heavy-handed housewives. Catalan abuelas jostle decisively past overwhelmed tourists, recouping their rightful turf at this time of year in order to claim the juiciest cuts of meat and most coveted ingredients. One of the more unique items changing hands at this time of year is the lesser-spotted giant Galet – a fist-sized macaroni destined to float in a warming chicken soup alongside a single (equally gigantic) homemade meatball.
Equally festive are the colourful Tortell de Reis pastries that appear in swathes prior to the three kings’ arrival. Adorning bakery windows with bursts of candied fruit colour, this glistening o-shaped brioche contains a tiny ceramic figurine of one of their majesties. The person who finds the tiny porcelain king in their slice gets to wear the accompanying paper crown (beware of chipping a tooth). Beware too cheapskates, for therein also lies a dried fava bean – the unlucky finder of which must foot the bill for the tortell!
Another must on many household menus are the three Cs – Catalan Canelones at Christmas. Barcelona’s archetypal festive fare, these hearty stuffed pasta tubes drizzled with salty béchamel are traditionally eaten on 26th December, conveniently using all the leftover Escudella, (uber-tender meat stew) from Christmas day.