Christmas in Barcelona

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When Christmas approaches Barcelona transforms, like many other cities in the world do. Many people are convinced that consumerism substituted tradition, especially when you travel on holiday in December, but this is not fully true. In fact, it looks that Christmas always arrives in shops' windows before than in people's hearts or anyway well in advance in the calendar. In Barcelona, you get various options and once again tradition gets along well with the new commercial trends.

While streets are adorned with Christmas lights and decorations, many areas of the town get ready to host a multitude of tourists, not only from abroad but also from the surrounding areas. Barcelona's is a special Christmas, the most followed and famous in the Catalan Region. So many events, both religious and not, are linked to the popular traditions.

> Plaza de la Catedral hosts the market of Saint Lucia, known as Feria de Santa Llúcia, open from the first days of December until the 24th. Stalls offer an incredible assortment of Christmas ornaments, products of local handicraft and gastronomy. You can't avoid noticing the typical Christmas trees and creches that, besides the classical figures, include a quite unusual one, the caganer, a character from the Catalan folklore, represented by a young man with a red hat and bare buttocks. His origin is in the 18thcentury, when it was decided to add elements from the regional tradition to the classic nativity scenes. The statue is represented while defecating, that's why in the local language it is called 'home que caga', and in the popular tradition it's considered as a great lucky charm and symbol of self-irony of the society: we're all the same when it comes to men's biological needs.

Santa Llúcia's market, like Sagrada Família's, hosts an enormous variety of products, not only Christmas ones but also clothing, lamps created by the skilled hands of Catalan artisans, costume jewelry and much more. Surely that's a venue not to be missed during your Christmas holiday in Barcelona.

Christmas' Eve carries with itself a few special guests. In many Catalan houses, especially those with kids, "caga Tió" appears before Santa Claus arrives. "Caga Tió" is a character built from a wooden trunk: he arrives to kids' houses a few weeks before Christmas. Also known as Tió de Nadal or Tronca, he derives from the Catalan folklore too. The tree has always been considered as a source of wealth in popular tradition: it was used as raw material in order to create useful tools for everyday life, besides being used for fire. A few days before Christman, parents explain their children that "Tió" has gone to the mountains to eat and get fat before the approaching holidays. This is an excuse for families to spend a day out: this tradition is much more common in small Catalan villages rather than in towns. Meanwhile, adults hide the Tió in a strategic place and, later, younger kids accidentally find it. The Tió will later come back home and on the night of December 24th, kids will incite it to release the presents by hitting it with tiny sticks.

There are also many Spanish traditions besides the specific Catalan ones: one of them is to always have some mistletoe (muérdago) and a poinsettia, >and they both have to be given as presents. Another tradition for children, in this case to obtain a few extra money, called "Aguinaldo", is visiting the neighbours' houses (the classic "villancicos" tous) and offering Christmas chants in exchange for a reward. The same night, in order to celebrate the birth of Jesus, some families attend the midnight mass, also called the rooster mass because traditions says it was a rooster who notified the arrival of Jesus in this world.

Catalan tradition doesn't put aside the role of Santa Claus (Para Nadal), as well as other famous characters. Presents are piled up under the Christmas tree the morning of the 25th or also January 6th, when they are brought by the  Reyes Magos (Three Kings). Christmas Day has to be spent with the family, as well as December 26th, Boxing Day (san Esteban), which can't exist without the traditional home made cannelloni. The typical Christmas menu of Catalonia, as well as in Barcelona, also includes the 'Escudella i carn d'olla', a stew characterized by a typical spiced sausage called botifarra and vegetables. Other specialties are the cava sparkling wine, dried fruit, nougat and buiscuits made with sugar, cinnamon and almonds, called polvorones.

Many restaurants offer genuine local Christmas menus, including hand made cannelloni. It is more and more usual even among local families to go out for Christmas dinner, because of lack of time and need for relaxing.

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