So you think Christmas is the same all over the world?

LNFE Leonardo exchange student Juli Asbert Balart explains what Christmas is like in Catalonia.

I will explain Christmas from my point of view with our customs and our traditions. Every year in my grandmother's house in l’Hospitalet de Llobregat (Catalonia) all the family meets, many times even as many as forty people, to celebrate Christmas, which consists of eating very much, laughing together, the children singing, and celebrating our special custom, “El caga tió”.

The meeting starts with a very big meal formed by a great appetizer, and the two mains that are “sopa de galets amb pilota” and stuffed turkey and for dessert “neules”, “torrons” and “polvorons”.

The meal has been prepared the night before, because Catalan people don’t celebrate “noche buena” on the night of 24th of December like in the rest of Spain, so instead we prepare all the food for the next day.

After the big meal, we do the Catalan tradition called “el caga tió”, many families have their own “tió” kept all year, and other families “hunt” the “tió” on Christmas Day… depends of the family. The “tió” is a magic piece of wood that is fed during some days. On Christmas Day, after the meal, it is covered with a blanket and hit with sticks by the children while they sing a special song, after this, the children go to another room and sing other songs, and when they come back, under the blanket there are some presents.

The next day of Christmas we also celebrate “Sant Esteve”, it is another festival only celebrated in Catalonia, and it consists of joining with other family members who maybe couldn’t come on Christmas Day, and eating more. On this day, children usually recite some poetry for get some money.

We also celebrate the day of the “three magic kings”. On the night of 5th of January the three magic kings with their magic camels go from house to house, leaving presents for the children. If the children are well behaved, they will receive presents, if they are not well behaved they will receive coal. And the next day we meet together again, but this time maybe only the immediate family, and we eat cannelloni because traditionally this is to use all leftover food from Christmas day. For dessert we eat the “tortell de reis”, which is a cake with a figure of a king and a bean inside. Whoever takes the piece with the king inside will be the king of the day, and whoever takes the piece with the bean inside, must pay for the cake this year or the next.

Watch a YouTube video on how to make "tortell de reis".

The day before the magic kings, in almost every city or town you can see in their main street the parade of the magic kings. They throw candy and wave to the children.

Moreover we have another custom: “el pessebre” called “belen” in Spanish or nativity. The nativity is a representation of the birth of Jesus, constructed with moss, tree trunks, cork, clay figures with characters of rural life that is performed at Christmas, It is so important that many municipalities hold contests to select the best and in some places they make a nativity scene with live actors and animals typical of the Nativity such as the donkey and cow.

The Catalan people have a special figure for the nativity called “el caganer” (translated as "the crapper!"). Every year important people of the moment appear as new “Caganers”.

Another of the common things at Christmas are children singing carols to receive some money.

In the rest of Spain, Christmas is like in Catalonia but they don’t celebrate “Sant Esteve”, “el caga tió” or have “el caganer” in the nativity, and they celebrate “la noche buena” that is on 24th of December, but for all the other things it is the same.