There are many “Christmas time” festivities that lead up to December 25. A unique tradition on the Winter solstice (December 21) is a pagan fire ritual, known as Hogueras de Navidad (Christmas Bonfires). It is mainly celebrated in Granada and Jaen. People jump over the fires because the folklore says that people who do so on the shortest day of the year will be protected from illness.Christmas in Spain really gets started on December 22 with a Christmas lottery. People stay by their TVs and radios for many hours listening for the numbers to be called and for the prizes of the lottery. This lottery is known as El Gordo (the fat one) and is the most popular Spanish lottery. During the days leading up to Christmas Eve, many kids go around neighborhoods carolling, hoping to get some money. On Christmas Eve, Nochebuena, there are huge gatherings of family that include great food and last till late at night. Similar to the dinners in the United States, the traditional Christmas Eve dinners are ‘Pavo Trufado de Navidad’ (turkey stuffed with truffles) and ‘Pularda asada’ (a roasted young hen), although they aren’t as popular now. For example, seafood is the most popular meal on Christmas Eve and Day in the region of Galicia. Following dinner, the most common dessert is probably turrón, a nougat made with honey and almonds. Other popular desserts are polvorones, made of flour, sugar, and nuts, and mazapán, consisting of almonds and sugar. Cava is a sparkling wine, Spain’s version of champagne, which is used by many for a Christmas toast. Many other Spanish wines are also paired with the meal.Most Christians attend a mass service at midnight known as La Misa del Gallo. It is called this because a rooster crowed the night Jesus was born. At the service everyone sings Christmas carols while people play traditional instruments. In Spain, Santa Claus is getting more popular, but there, they call him Papá Noel. Instead of Santa bringing children gifts to open in the morning like we are used to in the U.S., Papá Noel brings the kids gifts to open on Christmas Eve. Other Santa figures known as Olentzero and Tió de Nadal are found in some parts of Spain. These more native figures also appear on Christmas day while kids join together to play in parks and show each other their new toys.

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