Christmas Eve is known as La Noche Buena, or The Good Night. As the sun goes down and the stars come out, tiny oil lamps are lit in the windows of every home. At midnight, families make their way to church for Midnight Mass. After the service, families gather for a great family feast. One of the most popular dishes is called Pavo Trufado de Navidad, or Christmas Turkey with truffles. Truffles are a special mushroom found underground, and considered a delicacy. After dinner, the streets fill with dancers. People listen to guitars and castanets play as they celebrate with a special Christmas dance called the Jota. The music and words of the Jota have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. The music and dancing typically continue into the early morning hours.
On Christmas Day, families generally spend most of the day between church, feast and more family celebrations. Special swing sets are set up and children and youths swing from them in celebration. Homes are decorated with Nacimientos. These are very detailed Nativity scenes depicting baby Jesus in the manger. Families also exchange presents on Christmas Day.
Santa is not the traditional bearer of gifts in Spain. Instead, children await the coming of the Magi, or kings for their gifts. On Dia de Los Reyes, or Day of the Kings, it is believed that the Magi travel through the countryside reenacting their journey to Bethlehem every year. On the eve of Dia de Los Reyes, children fill their shoes with straw, carrots and other food for the Magi’s horses, and leave them out on their windowsills. In appreciation of their efforts, the children wake up to find their shoes are filled with small gifts and toys. Balthazar is typically the favorite king of children, as he is the one believed to leave the gifts.
Dia de Los Reyes, also called The Epiphany, is celebrated on January 6th. On this day, there are parades throughout different cities. Children also buy or make special pastries called Rascónes. A Rascón typically has a small toy or a figure of baby Jesus hidden inside. This marks the final day of the Christmas season in Spain.
One of my favorite books to introduce this topic is from Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley. This book highlights festivals and celebrations from all over the world, and can really engage children in a comparison of different cultures!
I also like to reinforce new words and phrases. I created the vocabulary activity below to help students better understand the important words they encountered during the lesson.
Providing students with a choice is always a plus. I like to give my students the opportunity to choose a favorite/interesting piece of information they learned. Below, students can choose a custom that they found interesting and show what they learned by drawing and writing about that custom.
I hope you enjoyed your “trip” to Spain! Click on the image below to grab your Passport Page for Spain! (You can collect them all to use with your kiddos!)