September 18th, 2011
When I first moved to Marbella, on the Costa del Sol in Spain, I was resolutely against spending Christmas here. Christmas should be spent in freezing cold temperatures, with (hopefully) some snow, roast turkey and a Christmas TV sit-in. You can take me out of the UK, but…. So I was very apprehensive about spending my first Christmas here. There was no need. The superb mix of sun, great food and a snowy trip to the Sierra Nevada fulfilled all my Christmas needs and some!
After nine years of living in Spain I have only been back to the UK once for Christmas and I was itching to get back here. The Andalusian coastal province of Malaga generally enjoys good weather between Christmas and the New Year, with sunny days and mild evenings. I don’t know why, because good weather isn’t guaranteed, it just seems to know that it’s Christmas and so the sun shines.
Although Christmas Day (25th December) is a bank holiday, Spanish christmas tradition celebrates Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena) and King’s Day (Los Reyes) on 6th January, so celebrations stretch over two weeks, instead of two days. And Spain takes Christmas very seriously, both the history and tradition, as well as the fun and excitement of the modern day celebration.
The main ‘gift’ giving time is King’s Day on the 6th January. According to tradition this is the day when the Three Kings arrived to the stable in Bethlehem bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus. Every year, in every city, town and pueblo throughout Spain, the Three Kings Procession (Cabalgata de Reyes) takes place. It’s one for the kids with its succession of floats, sat atop you will see both traditional and Disney characters, and local children taking part. Finally the last floats bring the Three Kings, throwing hundreds and thousands (depending on the size of the town) of sweets and gifts to the crowd. Professional King’s Day visitors come armed with bags to collect sweets and even umbrellas turned upside down, which make a good sweet collector!
If you want to enjoy a traditional stay-at-home Christmas then you will find all you need in the local supermarkets and hypermarkets along the Costa del Sol and if you want ‘typical’ Brit trimmings, then head to Iceland in Puerto Banus or Fuengirola, Marks and Spencer in La Cañada, Marbella. And of course there is always a trip across the border to Gibraltar for your Christmas pudding and box of Quality Street. Many holiday rental apartments on the Costa del Sol come equipped with British satellite TV, so you can enjoy a very traditional Christmas Day in Spain.
For those who want to venture out for Christmas lunch or dinner, the choice is yours for the taking. There are plenty of restaurants serving traditional British Christmas lunch. From great value set menu versions to the more pricey and exclusive dining rooms. Finca Besaya in Puerto Banus and the Mijas Playa Restaurant in La Cala are two great spots to enjoy Christmas lunch.
Alternatively Christmas lunch on the beach is an experience that everyone has to enjoy once in a lifetime. Forget tradition and preconceptions about a traditional turkey blowout and opt for Grilled ‘Cigalas’ (Crayfish) and Paella instead; washed down with a few glasses of Cava and a sunset setting. Bliss!
The beauty of Christmas on the Costa del Sol is that you also have the option to enjoy a snowy, wintery jaunt to the Sierra Nevada and Granada. Just around a 11/2 hour drive from Marbella is this upbeat skiing resort. You can rent a holiday home iand spend a few days skiing, snowboarding, or just enjoying the stunning landscape and walks in the area, or wake up one morning, jump in the car and just go for the day. The choice is yours!
Whether down on the coast, or up in the snowy mountains, Christmas in southern Spain is a joyous occasion. I, for one, won’t be spending my Christmas this year in the UK. Join me, and those in the know, for a ‘Costa del Sol Christmas’ of Sun, Sea and Snow!