Christmas in Mallorca

It sneaks up on you like a pleasant surprise, rather than lumbering towards you ominously, which is often the feeling of the festivities in the UK: months of planning, panicking and stockpiling enough food for a winter hibernation, then it’s all over in three days and you’re back to work in the January gloom with a hangover and an overdraft. 

Festive period in Mallorca

Christmas on the beach

The festive period in Mallorca is a time to relax, whether you are holidaying or working. After the busy summer which is a hectic frenzy, the autumn and early winter times are the first chance you get to enjoy the downshift in the pace of the island and its melange of European cultures and Christmas traditions. 

For many years now the largest of the Balearic archipelago has been home to many Northern Europeans who are keen to keep alive the traditions of their homelands. Subsequently they brought plenty of those traditions with them to throw into the pot that makes up a Spanish, catholic, Mallorquin, Scandinavian, Bavarian, good old fashioned British Christmas. So, Christmas in Mallorca has the best of the lot, even if nobody is quite sure what is going on most of the time.

How do the Spanish celebrate Christmas? 

Looking at the Belens -  Xmas Eve Palma

Let’s start with the basics. Spanish catholic culture majors heavily on the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, which is the first focus of the holiday period. Every town and village has their own “Belen”: beautiful, poignant nativity scenes intricate in their minute details, often displayed in public buildings, churches, or even in the front window of the local sweet shop. The churches, boulevards and palaces of the capital city Palma have many on show, and are well worth making a trip to tour them all. I recommend that you stop frequently for “churros”, a freshly fried doughnut-like treat, and a “lamumba”, a hot chocolate with a more than generous slug of brandy. 

The city`s streets are a great place for shopping all year round with the swanky big name brands on offer in the boutiques of the main streets, sitting alongside the more traditional local fare, but on the run up to Christmas they are boosted with many German style festive markets initiated by the large expat community, but enjoyed by all. The British and Scandinavian resident communities also bring a slice of home with their own markets and traditions. Check out the Swedish church in Palma and the British style market in Santa Ponsa for two of the best.

Christmas isn’t Christmas without the turkey

Christmas day historically was not a big day in the Spanish festive calendar, but the influence of Northern European migrants has begun to change all that. If you can’t live without your turkey and sprouts, then no problem. Many British run restaurants will be happy to seat you amongst the many expat residents who choose to eat out on the day, as local friends replace the extended families left back in the old country, around tables groaning under the weight of the traditional trimmings. 

Take a peek at Mood Beach in Costa D’en Blanes. They are legendary for their Sunday lunches (including the most amazing gravy) and quite rightly sell out for Christmas Day. The chef is Irish and knows what to do with a roast. Father Christmas visits each and every table and everyone gets a present. To top it all off the view over the Bay of Portals is quite stunning. 

What happens on Boxing Day? 

New Year's day swimming

Like Christmas Day, Boxing Day also has few historic traditions locally, but it has become a day to enjoy the outdoors. Often the weather over the holidays is bright and sunny, chilly enough to make it feel like winter, but not so much that you can’t feel your toes. On and around Boxing Day the popular trails in the Tramuntana mountains become busier than normal with walkers looking to shed a few calories and clear the head before the next onslaught begins.

New Year’s Eve is the big night out. 

British expats in Mallorca

If you are after a New Year’s Eve party on the hop then Palma is the place to head for. With the Spanish tradition of eating and drinking late there is always plenty of life on Palma’s streets and there is normally a firework or two to enjoy before the main event of the festive period in the Spanish catholic calendar. 

If you’re still awake at sunrise then many local councils welcome in the New Year with chocolate and “ensaimadas” (another sweet pastry treat local to Mallorca). If you are looking for something a tad more glamorous then you should look at Son Amar, the world class dinner show just outside of Palma. They have special offers and prices ranging from 35€ and up. 

Who are the Three Kings? 

Cabalgada de Reyes Magos

The coming of “Los Reyes”, the Three Kings (or Three Wise Men) on 12th night, January 6th is the most anticipated evening of the festive season. History is a little hazy about how many kings, from where they came, and exactly when they arrived, but there is absolutely no doubt about it in Mallorca, especially amongst the children as this is the big day for the receiving of gifts. Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar arrived at the nativity in Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

These days it is more likely to be iPod’s, Xbox’s and bikes, but the traditions remain strong. Every village and town stages a parade which is held at sunset. The kings arrive by boat at the coastal towns, and by tractors inland, before parading around town throwing “caramelos”, (sweets), to throngs of excited kids. Palma`s parade is by far the largest with the boats arriving at La Lonja, the ancient fishermen's port, and is witnessed by crowds numbering in the tens of thousands. It can be a little crazy, but don’t let that put you off. Arrive early to get a good place to witness this most traditional part of a Mallorcan Christmas.  

While Mallorca can’t provide you with a white Christmas, it has every other base covered, all set against a backdrop of crisp winter weather and indigo blue skies. You can cherry pick the best bits of local culture and the cream of imported traditions over a relaxed fortnight as the island`s culturally diverse residents kick back and enjoy a couple of weeks off after a hot and hectic summer. 

And that’s it, right? 

It isn’t quite over just yet though, sure the island gets back to work, sort of, but the twin fiestas of San Sebastian and Sant Antoni, some of the biggest on the island, are less than two weeks away. But that is a story for another time. Not a great deal of actual work happens in Mallorca in January, and that in my opinion is exactly as it should be. 

Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, God Jul and Bon Nadal to one and all.