Tag Archives: Christmas

polvorones, mantecados, turron, postre de navidad, christmas sweets

Spain 101: Christmas Sweets

Gluey, grainy, pasty and downright revolting. Sorry, I just don’t like them, and I’m not the only one.

I am of course referring to the insufferable foodstuff that abruptly invade Spanish supermarket shelves around the beginning of December and stay there until the end of January. Turrón – available in paste or rock-hard form, Polvorones – dry, doughy, lard-based cookies that stick to your gums for hours, Mantecados – similar to Polvorones (just as lardy) but bigger and hidden away in brightly coloured wrapping paper.

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Warning: Mantecado de Canela (Source: Tnarik FlickrCC)

I’m not a fussy eater, but I can’t – for the life of me – gulp down any of these traditional treats without pulling a face. I’ll never forget my first encounter with a Mantecado: our landlady gifted my French housemate and I a box as a parting Christmas present (a rare display of generosity), which I wasted no time in diving into. One large mouthful later and I was scorning my overzealousness whilst spitting clumps of the stuff into the toilet. Rather than throwing them out we then used them as forfeits in a game of cards. Then there was the turrón. The first time I opened up a box of the Alicante-variety I thought it had gone off. Then, after being reassured of its edibility by a friend, I took a bite and almost lost a tooth.

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Spanish Turron de Alicante and Turron de Jijona (Turron Duro and Turron Blando) (Source: Jonathan Pincas FlickrCC)

Perhaps I’m being unreasonable though; there are one or two that aren’t so bad. Mazapan, which is either loved or loathed the world over in any case, is often gorged upon at Christmas time – particularly in Toledo, where it is said to have originated. It is baked in the form of seasonal figurines and goes down quite nicely, as does another Christmas favourite: Tronco de Navidad. This festive pudding is chocolate based, log-shaped and as popular in France but – at least for me – doesn’t make up for the damage done by its grim relatives.

Have you tried any of the above? Agree or disagree? Any others to add to the list? Let’s hear it…


christmas, navidad, granada, spain, españa, granada christmas lights

Hello again and Feliz Navidad!

Spain For Pleasure is back! After a week away (and what a miserable week it must have been…) the blog is up and running again, but now via Blue Host and WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com. This means that you’ll be seeing some gradual and tentative changes here over the next few weeks, all good of course.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas! Or Feliz Navidad should I say. Back in merry old England the weather is as grim as ever, yet as ever I couldn’t give a chistera; home is exactly where I want to be at Christmas, come rain, hail, gale force winds, snow blizzards or – in the rare event – shine. Even if my Dad does insist on playing his ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas: Woodwind Pipes Version’ CD over and over and over again. That’s just me though.

Were I still in Spain I’d doubtless be very much enjoying my festive holiday. There wouldn’t be many presents – Spaniards generally don’t do theirs until Reyes Magos on January 6th (i’m told that only spoilt Spanish children receive presents on both days) – but there’s still lots of eating, drinking and pretty things to look at in the street. Granada is a shining example:


And then there’s Seville:

6665435139 6842267c88 b e1387929738895 Hello again and Feliz Navidad!

Christmas in Seville (Source: Sevilla Cuidad FlickrCC)




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Christmas in Valencia (Source: Joan Grifols FlickrCC)

Santiago de Compostela:

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Christmas in Santiago de Compostela (Source: Carlos FlickrCC)

And of course Barcelona’s twinkling Christmas Market:


Where are you this Christmas? Spain? What Christmas traditions have surprised you? Wherever you are, enjoy!


Spain’s actual Christmas: Los Reyes Magos

Christmas is an entirely different kettle of fish in Spain. Most noticeably through lack of ridiculously early shop window displays, painfully irritating Christmas songs and just general blatant commercialism. Nor does anybody tend to tart up their houses with twinkling fairy lights or giant Rudolphs, as is often the case in Britain and the US. In fact, the Spanish treat Christmas very much more as a religious affair. People will often decorate their homes with scaled down versions of nativity displays, or ‘Belénes’, as they are called in Spain, and gather round them on Christmas Eve, before siting down for a traditional fish/lamb supper. Christmas Day itself is generally seen by most as an opportunity to recover from the night before, and is a big day for churchgoers of course.

The most notable difference is that there are no presents given out on Christmas Day. This is left for ‘Reyes Magos’, the epiphany on the 6th of January. It makes a lot more biblical sense really, given the fact that this is when the three wise men allegedly brought gifts to a bawling baby Jesus. After presents, people flock to the town’s streets to watch the cavalcades of the Three Kings trundle through, showering children with sweets as they go.

This year I flew back to Spain earlier than I normally would after the Christmas period in order to catch a glimpse of this epic street party in action. Plus, I had a new camera, and I have suddenly become mildly obsessed with taking photographs. So it was a shame that when I actually did head out to join in the fun I had already, and unknowingly missed the first two Kings of the procession. I did manage to catch the third though. Sort of. And I was lucky enough to see some children dressed as chickens, standing on a truck, also dressed as a chicken, led by a bloke dressed as a cock…erel. There was a chicken-themed song that everybody knew the words to, and it wasn’t the chicken dance. Needless to say, I was baffled. Why is this relevant? Would anybody care to enlighten me?

Here’s what I got anyway:

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The Third King approaches

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Those blurry things being hurled into the street are sweets just to clarify

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A crowded Reyes de los Catolicos

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“Oh here comes another Ki- oh wait, what?”

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Easter’s only round the corner now anyway. Maybe that’s what it was about…

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A brightly lit Calle Reyes Católicos

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Messing about with the manual light settings on new camera. I’m learning!

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Granada, Christmas, lights,

Granada at Christmas

Despite my usual distaste for Christmas lights, owing to their excessively tacky nature, I couldn’t help but feel a touch bedazzled when Granada’s festive decorations went up this year. Since moving to Spain i’ve never really experienced that Christmassy feeling during the run up to the day itself, but it appears Granada is now mounting a case against that. So after two weeks’ worth of procrastination, out eventually came the camera and off I wandered into the gleaming city centre…

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pc193303 Granada at Christmas

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pc193312 Granada at Christmas

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