ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS In Spain the time of preparation begins 4 weeks before Christmas. This time is called Advent. It is the time we spiritually prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. On the first Sunday of this period we prepare a wreath with four candles and light one candle. This candle glows during the week. The following Sunday we light the second candle and then the two burn for another week. On the third Sunday we light the third one and so we continue till the last Sunday in Advent, when we light all four candles. When the four candles are lit we know Christmas is very near.
First days of December, our pupils decorate their classrooms with drawings, tinsel, bells, coloured balls, “cribs” called here “belenes”and they learn traditional Chritsmas carols too. Every level has its wreath and one candle is lighted every Monday. Students write letters to the Three Wise Men who leave presents for all the Spanish children the 6th of January eve. A Royal Postman visits us and goes for all the groups collecting those letters. The Three Wise Men arrive at school the week before holidays and they give presents and sweets to our pupils. That is a very much exciting day, mainly for the youngest students. Last day of the term all the groups sing Christmas carols and some of them perform scenes of Jesus’s birth. Pupils dress up like Joseph, Virgin Mary, Child Jesus, shepherds, angels, stars, sheep, cows …
Our girls, boys and teachers bring different kinds of food to school in order to share them with people who need a help. The last day of school (22nd of December) we have small parties in every level. We taste traditional products eating in Christmas, specially sweets and cakes (turrón, mazapán, pestiños, polvorones...) and we sing Christmas carols. The main ingredients of the cakes are almond, honey and flour.
The musical instruments we play when we sing carols are guitars, “panderetas”, “castañuelas”, “zambombas” and an empty bottle which is beaten with a spoon.
On Christmas Eve we have a special supper which varies depending where you live, but usually includes fish or meat, but lots of sweet goodies made mainly with almonds, such as marzipan and nougat. After supper we go to church to a special service called midnight Mass, where we celebrate the coming of the Child Jesus.
On Christmas Day some families like to have their presents. It is a tradition that is being copied from the Anglo-Saxon world. In the true Spanish tradition the children have to wait until the 6th January to receive their presents because it was the Three Kings that brought presents to the Child Jesus and we commemorate that. The night before, on the 5th January, the Three Kings visit the town in a big parade, and during the night they go to the houses on camel to deliver their presents. Children leave out a bucket of water for the camels and three small glasses of sweet wine (very warming in the middle of the night) for the Three Kings, because they must be thirsty after so much work! Children put their shoes on the window sills so that the Three Kings can put their presents in them. In the morning everybody is very happy because the three Kings have been and left the presents and drunk the wine and the camels have also drunk the water! Although the last day of the year is not a holiday, people celebrate it by eating twelve grapes just as the clocks are chiming out the last hour of the old year. They then go on party till the early hours.