Wacky Spanish Christmas Traditions You Should Know

This blog post was originally published on December 23, 2014 and was updated on November 2, 2017.

Many countries have their own special Christmas customs, and Spain is no exception.

Perhaps you already know about the Three Kings that bring children presents or the special sweets eaten this time of year. However, there are a few wacky Spanish Christmas traditions that aren’t so well known. Read on to find out what they are!

These unique Spanish Christmas traditions are a perfect way to create new holiday memories!

Photo Credit: Jorge Dalmau, Text Overlay: Devour Madrid Food Tours

Santa Claus is Not Coming to Town

No, instead another strange man is on his way. Spanish children believe the Three Kings will bring their presents on the 6th of January, but some parts of Spain have an extra gift-giving figure that visits on Christmas Eve.

In Galicia, a northwestern region of Spain, a mythical coal miner named El Apalpador feels children’s bellies to see if they’ve been eating well. Children deemed undernourished are given small, yummy treats, such as chestnuts. He may also leave a little present behind instead of food.

The delicious treats are among our favorite Spanish Christmas traditions!
We sure could go for some Spanish Christmas sweets right now! Photo credit: Javier Lastras

Olentzero brings the gifts on Christmas Eve in the Spanish provinces of Navarre and Basque Country. He is often depicted as being an overweight peasant, wearing farmer’s clothing and smoking a pipe. He leaves gifts for children, and only asks for some food and alcohol in return.

It’s the Most Wonderful-ly Fun Time of the Year

In many parts of Spain, children participate in El Aguinaldo. On Christmas day, children visit their neighbors or relatives and sing Christmas carols. In exchange for their beautiful songs, they are given sweet treats or a little bit of money. This is one of the most special Spanish Christmas traditions.

Spain’s version of April Fools Day falls on December 28. Spaniards call this El Día de los Inocentes (the Day of the Innocents). Pranks are generally harmless. The most popular prank is to stick a drawing of a stick figure on someone’s back.

In the beachside city of Cádiz, Spanish children take part in El Arrastre (The Drag) on January 5, the day before the Three Kings are due to stop by. Children take empty cans and string them along a piece of rope. They then drag the cans around, making as much noise as possible. This custom is meant to call the attention of the Three Kings, so that they remember to leave the children presents that night.

Rockin’ Around the Christmas…Log?

In the Spanish east coast region of Catalonia, children receive presents from a pooping log. Known as Tió de Nadal, or Christmas Log, this smiling figure becomes part of the family during the holiday season.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Catalonian families feed Tió de Nadal little treats every day, and cover him with a blanket each night to keep him warm. On Christmas Eve, children beat Tió de Nadal with sticks to help him poop out presents. Instead of individual presents, he usually poops out small treats, like nuts and candies, that are meant to be shared by everyone.

The Tió de Nadal is one of our favorite wacky Spanish Christmas traditions!
The Tió de Nadal is one of our favorite wacky Spanish Christmas traditions! Photo credit: Ajuntament Barcelona

Catalonia is the birthplace of another pooping Christmas character, El Caganer or The Crapper. He is often shown as a peasant, squatting down over a large pile of poop. El Caganer is usually placed in the Belen, an elaborate Nativity scene that most Spanish households display.

There are various explanations for his inclusion in the otherwise holy scene, but the most widely accepted reason is simply that it’s funny. In modern times, the figure can be made to look like politicians, famous actors or other pop culture icons. It’s certainly one of the most humorous Spanish Christmas traditions!

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1 Comment

  1. December 26, 2014 at 12:36 am

    In Italy we wait for “la befana”, a good witch to bring presents the night of January 5th. I’m not sure exactly the legend behind it – there are a few different versions but it’s kind of fun to get presents Christmas Day and after 🙂


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