It is always a pleasure in the countdown to December 25th to steal a glimpse at how Christmas is celebrated in different nooks and corners of Spain. Christmas traditions vary according to region: at the busy Fira de Sta. Llúcia Christmas market in Barcelona, for example, you can’t possibly miss a cheeky character called Tió de Nadal.
In the snowy medieval towns and villages of León you are sure to come across some version of the ramo leonés, a humble wooden candle holder lovingly “dressed” with lace, ribbon, woolen thread, fruit, and other offerings.
“How do they celebrate Christmas in the Canary Islands?” – was the question I put to Patri Jorge, my fellow shoe blogger and friend from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital of one of the two main islands of the archipelago.
Patri responded by sending pictures of her favorite beach: Las Canteras. The famous golden sand beach is situated right in the city and runs for over three kilometers. She and her partner jog and surf on it every day.
Christmas is high tourist season in the Canary Islands. Europeans from northern latitudes flock to the “fortunate isles” to enjoy the special air and balmy temperatures (typically 19- 21°C or 66-70°F). Swedes were among the earliest enthusiasts – they form one of the largest (if not, in fact, THE largest) ex-pat colonies of Gran Canaria.
Hands down the most spectacular thing that happens in the Canary Islands around the festive season (and one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen) is the Sand Nativity scene of Las Canteras (Belén de Arena de Las Canteras).
The project goes back thirty years and it is now in its 12th official season. The organizers – a local marketing and communications group – work closely with the city of Las Palmas to ensure that everything goes smoothly for the international team of invited sculptors. It takes the sculptors and their assistants a few weeks to carve a biblical Bethlehem out of two tons of sand. Walking around the gigantic scenery (sculptures are up to 4 meters or 13′ high) at any time of day or night must be an amazing experience.
Anyone who’s ever built a sand castle on the beach can relate, I’m sure.
The Sand Nativity or Belén de Arena of Las Canteras is both grandiose and fragile, simple and awe-inspiring. If you are in Gran Canaria during this time of year, it’s well worth the visit.
In any event, whether you are near or far, here at the Spanishoegallery Blog we most sincerely wish all our readers and visitors joy and peace this holiday season.