Christmas traditions British expats in Spain should know – coalminer, cake and flour fight

British expats ‘left out in the cold’ by UK Government says expert

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Relocating to another country is a dream for many, but Christmas can be a difficult time. With travel restrictions limiting the possibility of coming home, understanding local traditions has never been more important to make the most of Christmas abroad.

Christmas in Spain is slightly different to Christmas in the UK.

For starters, there is no Santa.

In the Galician region of Spain, a coalminer called El Apalpador visits homes instead.

He taps the belly of children to make sure they have eaten enough, and usually finding they haven’t, leaves chestnuts and presents.

British expats in Galicia who see a man with a ginger beard, a pipe, a beret, a green jacket and patched-up trousers should recognise him as El Apalpador.

In the Basque country, it’s another jovial man who leaves presents.

El Olentzero is a charcoal burner who got everlasting life from a fairy.

Most Spanish children, however, get presents from the Three Kings.

Gift giving is on January 6, a public holiday and in the city of Alcoy, near Alicante, it’s quite the affair.

Hundreds of school children known as pages get blackfaced and wear bright red clothes.

They take presents up a ladder to children on balconies, with parents booking the balconies months in advance for the occasion.

British expats in Spain may wonder about the obsession with the lottery at Christmas.

National lottery tickets are quite expensive in Spain, but the Christmas lottery, El Gordo, has an attractive jackpot.

People buy one ticket collectively in the hope of winning and sharing the jackpot.

Christmas lights are serious business in Spain, with some cities becoming famous for them.

Malaga went all out this year with 22 giant arches forming a Christmas forest in one of the main pedestrianised street.

Other notable cities this year include Madrid, Huelva, Barcelona and Vigo.

There are plenty of traditions around Christmas, with December 28 the equivalent of April Fool’s Day.

This is a day of fake news, egg-pelting in the northeast of the country, and other shenanigans.

In Ibi, the town’s judge, prosecutor and mayor have a flour fight with protesters trying to take back power.

Spanish households spend a lot of money at Christmas, the second biggest spender in Europe behind the UK.

The Roscon de Reyes is the Christmas cake to look out for.

Round with a central hole, it’s decorated with candied fruit and has cream in the middle.

There may be a “king” in the cake, with the unlucky winner having to pay for the cake.

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