From lucky grapes to very generous wooden logs, the CaminoWays.com team have picked their favourite Christmas traditions from the different Camino regions. Here are our favourite Camino Christmas traditions:
Sabela: 12 lucky grapes in New Year’s Eve
“This Spanish tradition to welcome the New Year dates back to the 19th century. It consists of eating 12 grapes, one every second just before midnight, when the new year will begin. The rhythm is marked by the bell strike of the tower clock, and families usually watch it on TV just after dinner. Another option is eating the grapes on the streets, usually on the main square; the most popular place is the Puerta del Sol in Madrid. This tradition is meant to attract good luck for the following year.”
Tania: Chocolate with churros on New Year’s Morning
“The tradition after the exciting New Year’s Eve is having wonderful chocolate con churros, big mugs of piping hot chocolate with churros. In the early hours of the morning, after a night celebrating the New Year is the best thing to recover!”
Alex: Christmas cod in Portugal
“In Portugal at Christmas time, it is traditional to eat rabanadas (a kind of French toast with Port wine and cinnamon) and cod with cabbage (bacalhau cozido com couve e batatas). Those two are mandatory… I like rabanadas because they are very tasty and they remind me of my grandparents… I’m not a big fan of bacalhau but all my family and friends love it.”
Maria: The Three Wise Men
“As a child growing up in Galicia, and Spain in general, Santa was only second best to the Three Wise Men. You’d be getting your Christmas gifts from one of the Three Wise Men, whichever you chose as your favourite.Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar came a long way riding their camels, all the way from the Middle East and delivered gifts to kids on the night of the 5th January. That didn’t stop them from attending parades all over the country that evening as well; meeting kids, giving them sweets and telling them to go to bed early so their presents will be waiting for them in the morning.
As a child that was one of the most special days of Christmas, seeing the Three Wise Men and then waking up in the morning to find the milk and biscuits you had left for the camels was also gone! replaced with your presents. But careful, if you haven’t been good, the Three Wise Men might only leave you black coals. It has to be one of the best Camino Christmas traditions.”
Mireia: Caga Tio
“The Caga Tio is a unique tradition in Catalonia. This is a log or trunk, with a smiley face and a traditional ‘Barretina’, a red hat from Catalonia. This log is covered with a rug, and it has to be fed from the 9th of December (“Dia de la Inmaculada Concepción” ) until Christmas Day. Kids have to look after it and feed it, normally with same stuff you would feed farm animals with, and keep it warm with the rug.
On Christmas Day, kids hit the log with a branch and sing a song; there are many similar versions of this song, but it mainly says “Poo log, poo butifarras and turron” and the log used to “poo” sweets and small presents. We hit the log, as traditionally, the Caga Tio was a log from the chimney, so to make it burn more (avivar las llamas), it had to be hit. Also, kids take care of it, in “return” for the gift of the warmth and light it gives the home, but it was also a mythology ritual, as it was a ritual to ask for a good harvest in the new year.
You will wonder, what’s the problem with Catalans and poo… but another tradition is the ‘caganer’ figure on the nativity. There is no official explanation about why it is there, but there are caganers from 16th century on… and it’s said that it might be to represent an “earthly” or profane figure and behaviour inside the sacred Bethlehem. It’s usually hidden a little bit, or below the bridge, so everybody looks for it (kind of “where’s Wally”).”
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