The Christmas lights are on in the streets of Valencia and everybody is already in a festive mood. Soon schools will be out and many people will take time off to enjoy the festivities with their friends and family. From Christmas Eve to the 6th January, when the Three Kings bring presents to children, it is a truly special time to enjoy in the city.
There is so much to do in Valencia during the Christmas period. For a start, there are several special Christmas markets throughout the city, and visitors can also follow a Ruta de Belenes to see the best nativity scenes decorating public buildings and spaces in the city.
For children (and those young at heart), there are special fairgrounds and ice rinks at the City of Arts and Sciences and the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, and special programmes of events at the main family attractions. At Bioparc, for example, the entrance will be turned into a traditional Berber village from 23rd December, where children can take part in different workshops and games and qualify to receive a free annual pass to the animal park. And at the City of Arts and Sciences, children can watch puppet and music shows and much more.
Singing carols (villancicos) is the best way to get into the Christmas spirit. On 20th December, local choirs from the Valencian Choral Federation (FECOCOVA) will perform traditional carols in the streets of the historic city centre at locations such as the Apostles Door of the Cathedral, the base of the Miguelete bell tower or outside the Valencian Government building. Everybody is welcome to join in!
Christmas Eve or Nochebuena is a family affair in Spain. This is the most important meal when families get together to celebrate Christmas, maybe listen to the traditional King’s Message at 9pm and head out for a Midnight Mass afterwards. That is why visitors may find many places are closed for the evening and it is worth checking with their hotel the best place to eat. Only a few restaurants like A tu gusto in the City of Arts and Sciences will be open for dinner.
If you hear or read unbelievable news stories on 28th December, you would be forgiven for taking them with a pinch of salt as this is the Dia de los Santos Inocentes, Spain’s answer to April Fools’ Day. Watch out too for pranksters who may stick a paper doll on your back or play other tricks on you.
And for a proper Fools’ Day you could head out to the village of Jalance, about an hour inland, for the Fiesta de los Locos. Here, “mad” men and women with painted faces and outrageous costumes take over the streets and create mayhem. There is even a new “Mayor of the Fools” in charge of the village for a day. Expect plenty of music, dancing and above all laughter.
On New Year’s Eve, the crowds will gather at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to eat their twelve lucky grapes as the bells of City Hall clock strike midnight, as it is the tradition all over Spain for good luck in the new year. This being Valencia, revellers can also expect spectacular fireworks to follow and of course a massive party! DJs will take over the balcony of the City Hall and the music will carry on until dawn.
As the new year begins, children will be getting increasingly excited and, on 5th January, they will fill the streets of Valencia to welcome the Reyes Magos. Loaded with presents, the Three Kings or Wise Men will land in Valencia’s port, they and embark on a parade through the city centre, the Cabalgata de Reyes, showering children with gifts.
At night, tradition states that children must leave their shoes out to receive their presents, together with some water and food for the Kings’ camels, and maybe a tipple for the Kings themselves. If they have been well behaved, they will wake up to piles of presents. If not, they may find a lump of charcoal instead – though it is usually a sugar-based one, left as a reminder to be better in the coming year.
Traditions like this are what make Christmas such a magical time. Feliz Navidad!