Expats at Christmas: Inside a sunny Spanish Christmas on Costa Blanca

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An estimated 400,000 people leave Britain each year, packing their bags for a new life abroad. If you could be spending Christmas day in Spain, what would you be doing? Jane Pritchard, a British expat living near Torrevieja, on the Costa Blanca, shares what her Christmas Day looks like as a Brit abroad.

Have you ever considered leaving Britain for a life in the sun?

That’s exactly what Jane Pritchard did when she left the UK for the Costa Blanca, the southeastern coastline of Spain, over six years ago.

Jane is one of an estimated 300,000 Britons who have made Spain their permanent home.

By moving to a new country, Britons find they adopt some of the culture and traditions of their new home.

On Christmas Day, that can mean blending British traditions with Spanish ones, making the day a beautiful mix of the two cultures.

Jane said: “Christmas is almost a non-event in Spain as their main celebration is on January 6 when most of the towns and villages have a three kings parade.

“Christmas in Spain is not as manic as it is in the UK and really only gets going here in November.

“A lot of residents prefer to eat out on Christmas Day, and until Covid so did we. It’s much more of a relaxing day for us ladies!”

Christmas for Jane and her husband is a relaxing affair, and with temperature highs of 17C in the Costa Blanca for December, they can even enjoy a drink outdoors.

Jane said: “A typical Christmas Day for us here is a light breakfast, my husband will open his Birthday cards and presents then we will walk our dog.

“If the weather is OK, we will sit outside with our pre-dinner sherry.”

While many expats may well be excited to wave goodbye to bitter December weather, other traditions are carried across borders and upheld in their new countries.

For Jane, these include traditional British television and food.

Jane said: “We always watch Carols from Kings on Christmas Eve and as it’s also our wedding anniversary, so we try to have a meal out.

“The Queen’s speech on Christmas Day is a must – probably while we are eating our Christmas Pud!

“And we always have bubble and squeak on Boxing Day with cold turkey.”

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In Spain, a traditional Christmas meal wouldn’t include roast turkey so some Britons choose to make their own, or eat out.

Jane said: “Spanish families don’t tend to eat turkey; it’s mostly fish or suckling pig served at large family gatherings.

“Spanish people also do not send Christmas cards – Spain is much more laid back in their approach to Christmas, most of the decorations are purely for the expat community.”

Spanish Christmas traditions

El Gordo

El Gordo is a nickname for a huge nationwide lottery held on December 22 with prize money of hundreds of millions of euros.

Jane said: “Most Spanish families will be gathered round the TV on the 22nd watching the draw for El Gordo, whole villages will have purchased a ticket or part of one.”

The Three Kings

The Three Kings or Reyes Magos bring gifts to children on January 6, with many towns and villages having huge parades where the three wise men give sweets out to the children.

Then families go home and leave their shoes out for the wise men to fill with presents overnight – much like Father Christmas.

Roscon de Reyes

Roscon de Reyes is another Christmas tradition saved for January 6.

Like a Spanish Christmas cake, this is a sweet bread-like cake filled with cream and topped with candied fruits and almonds.

A bean and a small figurine are hidden inside the cake: if you find the figurine you’ll have good luck next year, but find the bean and you have to foot the bill for the cake next Christmas!

Eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve

One fun Spanish tradition and superstition is eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve, to guarantee 12 months of good luck in the coming year.

This tradition known as las doce uvas de la suerte or the 12 grapes of luck dates back to the late 1800s.

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