Celebrating New Year’s Eve and the Epiphany in Seville

27 December 2016 0 Comments Category: blog, Cat Gaa, Living in Spain

I walked into my new boyfriend’s house to find eight small glass bowls piled high with green grapes. He pulled open the door of the refrigerator to reveal several bottles of chilled cava and plates of seafood. Puzzled, I asked if someone was celebrating something special.

He grabbed a bunch of grapes and counted out 48 – 12 for me, 12 for my younger sister and a dozen each for my parents. “Nothing more special than New Year’s Eve. Toma, take these for your family and stop off for some champagne. I’ll swing by your house around 1am, and we’ll go out.”

And with that, I told my parents to put on an extra layer, as we’d descend to central Plaza Nueva to ring in 2008 like the Spaniards.

Sandwiched right in between Christmas Day and the Epiphany, New Year’s Eve adds to the crescendo of the long holiday season in Southern Spain. Beginning with the celebration of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th and continuing four more weeks until the Reyes Magos, or Three Wise Men bring children their gifts on January 6th, the fiestas are marked by family, food and merriment.

For an American, New Year’s was a time to wear something sparkly, pretend I like champagne and pay far too much money for a mediocre h’or devours and watered down drinks. As I found my first year in Spain, nochevieja is a family holiday more than another token get-dressed-up-then-wake-up-hungover sorts of holidays.

The most well-known traditions are those of the large family feast – often featuring seafood and roast dishes, like lamb or even turkey. In my now husband’s Andalusian family, the entrantes, or appetiziers, often steal the show – the year w were married and celebrated the holidays all together, my mother only ate plump shrimp and cured ham that came from pigs raised on my father-in-law’s farm.

Though we were all stuffed, we had to make room for the 12 grapes and champagne. Just before midnight, the eight of us crowded around the TV and tuned in to the local TV station, hands perched over our bowls. The camera panned the crowd before turning to Seville’s Town Hall and its clock. The minute hand inched towards the vertical position, and as a loud, hollow bell sounded 12 times, we stuffed the grapes into our mouths. One grape for the first 12 strikes of midnight for luck with frantic chewing in between (I’d wisely deseeded mine beforehand).

Other traditions include wear red underwear for good luck, and you’ll often find stores stocking up in the days preceding the new year, and clubs and bars offer specials on drinks and food.

If you’re in Seville, head to Plaza Nueva around 11pm to wait for midnight. If you’re hoping to eat a meal out, you’ll have to call ahead, as many restaurants close in observance of the holidays.

Once everyone has recovered from nochevieja, there’s still one more date on the calendar: the Epiphany. Rather than receiving gifts from Father Christmas on the morning of December 25th, Spanish children wait for January 5th to leave out a glass of brandy for the Three Wise Men and hay for their camels.

Gifts are exchanged on the 6th before everyone digs in to a special treat, a Roscón de Reyes. This sweet bread is usually sliced in the middle and filled with whipped cream, and a bean or small toy is baked inside. Whoever’s slice has the surprise is to pay for the whole cake!

Most cities – and even many small towns – have a Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, or a parade in which floats run through the main thoroughfares tossing out sweets and small toys. This is one of my favorite Spanish holidays because of the bizarro factor and my love of candy, and I can’t resist a parade!

If you’re in Seville, there are two parades; I prefer the cabalgata that runs through the Triana neighborhood because there’s more candy to be distributed; it’s on January 6th rather than the city-wide cabalgata on January 5th. Check the You can reserve a roscón de reyes at Confitería Lola ahead of time (on Calle Alvar Núñez or Pagés del Corro) or at Confitería Filella on Calle San Jacinto.

There’s no need to worry about funds if you’re working in a Spanish company: many companies give a paga extra, or an extra paycheck. Besides, there’s no big holiday in the calendar for the rest of January!

Have you ever celebrated the holiday season in Spain?

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