Christmas on the Canary Islands

22 December 2015 0 Comments Category: Just Landed, Matthew Hirtes

Belén de Arena

You’ll understand why the Canary Islands were dubbed the Insulae Fortunatae by the Romans if you visit them over the festive period. For there’s something very fortunate about basking in isles bathed in warm winter sun. Rather than shivering in sub-zero conditions back in your home country.

Just like everywhere else, the Canaries have their own traditions which they follow over the festive period. So, how do they celebrate Christmas on the Canary Islands? Allow me to reveal all, on an island-by-island basis.

Traditionally, Christmas in El Hierro was celebrated in an understated way. With the lard reserved from the November slaughter of goats used to make seasonal biscuits and cakes and the meat replacing turkey as the seasonal roast. Nowadays, whilst there’s still no pantomime, there’s plenty of family-friendly fun to be had at the Centro Deportivo de Valverde’s Parque Infantil de Navidad with bouncy castles and clowns from the 2nd to the 5th January.

You’ll find a Belén, a three-dimensional nativity scene, in most Spanish homes with the families arranging this at the same time as putting up the Christmas tree. But whilst the residential version usually only just includes baby Jesus in the manger with Mary, Joseph, and farm animals for company, the public Belénes are more extravagant. Like Puerto del Rosario’s Belén Gigante, for example, whose 10,000 square metres, featuring 60 cork figures and six traditional houses, make it the Canary Islands’s largest open-air nativity display.

They unveiled the Bélen Gigante in the Fuerteventura capital’s Barranco Pilón on Saturday 12th December. It’s open from 10:00am to 10:00pm Monday to Sunday, until the 5th January . There’s no admission fee to pay at this attraction which is as popular with locals as it is with tourists.

Gran Canaria also have their outdoor miniature Bethelehem. Again, entrance is free but all donations go to help feed the island’s homeless. Instead of wood, characters such as The Three Wise Men are fashioned from sand. You’ll find the Belén de Arena at the most easterly (La Puntilla) section of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Playa de Las Canteras.

If the thermometer suggests otherwise, you’ll know it’s Christmas time in La Gomera with their Navidad en la Calle events. Over the course of the festive period, they’ll mark Xmas on the streets of the island’s six municipalities. Listen to Christmas carols and watch seasonal parades during a full programme which began in Hermigua on the 13th December and ends in the capital, San Sebastián de La Gomera, on the 4th December.

Germany is renowned for its Christmas markets. Over in La Palma’s capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma, they switch the attention from bratwurst and glühwein to traditional crafts. The freebie Muestra de Artesanía en Navidad takes place from the 23rd December to the 9th July.

Meanwhile, on Lanzarote, you can see the New Year in the capital at the Fiesta fin de año. This starts at 12:30am on the 1st January in the Avenida de las Playas de Puerto de Carmen. Half an hour later, fireworks light up the night sky.

In Spain, kids receive far more presents from Los Reyes Magos on the morning of the 6th January than they do from Santa on Christmas Day. The very last chance for Tenerife children to tell Balthazar, Caspar, and Melchior what they want occurs in the capital the night before. As Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s Avenida de Bélgica plays host to a Cabalgata de Reyes from 7:00pm, a parade which sees the Three Wise Men pass through the city centre on their camels with kids handing their present wish list to their favourite.