So I spent my Christmas Eve in Majorca. Do You even know any Polish or Spanish Christmas traditions?
I had no idea! I honestly admit that since I lived outside Poland, I began to miss everything Polish. Also for Our traditions. The problem lay not in the fact that my family does not like those “old superstition”. The problem lies in the fact that we have no clue about where it all came from! Why share the wafer? Why do we tune the Christmas tree? Where did the idea of apples on the Christmas tree come from? I honestly admit that I have not been interested in it for now. And I decided to change it when I needed to spend my Christmas Eve in Majorca.
When do the holidays start?
In the shops they start even from October, but in reality the holidays begin with Rorats. I remember that participating in them was a lot of fun. On Christmas Eve, held last Rorats. The children carry lanterns and parents carry candles. They symbolize waiting for the coming of the Savior. By burning them, we express our readiness to receive him into Our hearts.
Probably more than once have you seen beautiful Christmas wreaths hanging on the door?
Where did they come from and what do they mean? Once, when the roraty began, families created wreaths of Advent. On the first Sunday of Advent the wreaths were hanged under the ceiling! Made of branches of trees and decorated with red bows. One candle was lit on the rim and another one was lit each subsequent Advent Sunday. This is one of the traditions I had no clue about.
The last day of Advent is Christmas Eve.
In Poland, We call Christmas Eve – Wigilia. Word Wigilia comes from Latin and means watch. That is why we are watching the table together this day, waiting for the birth of Jesus. This involves decorating Christmas Tree and also carries with home decorating. Once, houses were decorated with trimmed branches and tops of conifers. It was to symbolize and provide happiness and prosperity to the whole household. They were suspended at the ceiling, and currently this role is played by the Christmas tree in Our Houses. Right now Christmas tree is a symbol of the Tree of Life – Tree of Paradise. On the Christmas tree should not miss apple, it symbolize health, and it symbolize apples are fruit of the tree of Eden, described in the Bible.
Why do we hang chains and lights on the Christmas tree?
I remember that when I was a small child, I made chains of tissue paper with my brother. Chains symbolize the tempter’s snake. They weave a Christmas tree, symbolizing that all people are in bondage to sin. The star at the top of the Christmas tree symbolizes the star of Bethlehem, which lead Three Kings to baby Jesus. In the past, instead of lights, candles were hung on the Christmas tree. They symbolize crumbs fire which was burning in the room of farmers, so they warmed up a whole house while waiting for baby Jesus to be born. Currently, they symbolize the undying love of God to the people. Decorated Christmas tree should stand in the house till the Epiphany.
Why do we leave one free place on the table?
Most of you know that it is reserved for a lonely wanderer. But why? On Christmas Eve, no one should be mad at anybody. No one should sit down at the table and eat a meal together, not made up earlier. This involves that also no one should be alone that evening. Therefore, when covering a table We leave a free place to wait for the wandering souls, desire to sit down with next to the table.
A Christmas Eve meal precedes reading the Bible.
More specifically, a fragment of the Gospel according to Saint Luke on the birth of Jesus. Then everyone shares the wafer with each other. It symbolizes reconciliation and brotherhood. The wafer fulfills the role of the former Eulogies – sacrificial breads put on the altar. Some of them were preserved and distributed as the Eucharist, and the rest was blessed after Mass and distributed to the faithful, who were not present in the church.
12 meals on Christmas Eve table.
It is a well-known tradition to try every dish from the Christmas Eve table. This is to ensure prosperity next year and the assurance that at home you will never run out of food. The hosts should also remember about their animals. They were given leftovers from the table mixed with wafer. In many houses during the Christmas Eve dinner, carols are sung by the Christmas crib.
Where did the tradition of constructing a Christmas crib come from?
It is said that this tradition was started by Saint. Francis of Assisi. He wanted to refresh the memory of the birth of Jesus and ordered to bring hay to the cave, bring a donkey and a bullock, and called the brothers. When people came around, they began to sing Christmas carols and St. Francis read the fragments of the Gospel.
Christmas Eve ends after Midnight Mass.
Midnight Mass is celebrated in churches at Midnight. It commemorates the arrival of shepherds to Bethlehem and paying tribute to the newborn Jesus. And what about carols? I learned that in some regions in Poland from Christmas Eve until 6 January (Epiphany) in the streets and homes walks Santa Claus with children, singing Christmas carols. In other areas there is a priest, he bless our homes and comes with altar sing carols while visit.
At the door of the house should be wrote letters K + M + B – the initials of the Three Kings.
Small edit: One of my readers told me that it’s a mistake to write K+M+B on the doors. There should be C + M + B which means Christus Mansionem Benedicat – Christ bless our home. And We shouldn’t put pluses between letters. We should put crosses!
In addition, I learned that holidays are governed by certain rules.
Christmas table should be covered with a white cloth, and under the cloth there should be inserted hay. I even heard that under every plate! Apparently, the number of guests at the table is important. It should be even. Odd number of guests symbolize that some of the guest are near death. There should be candles on the table. On the table should be sustained fire, symbolizing the old days, when heat in the fireplace were suppouse to light all Chistmas Eve night. Dinner should start after seeing the first star. There should be 12 meals on the Christmas table, because of the 12 Apostle.
Predictions from the hay and animals who talk.
In some regions in Poland hay was pulled out from under the tablecloth – straw after straw. If you extend a straight straw, it means that next year will be a simple and literally full of pleasure. However, if you pull out the bent one, it means that you will have a hard year. I wrote earlier about sharing wafer with animals. It was believed that thanks to it animals will talk at Midnight. Especially cows or donkeys, because they were present at the birth of baby Jesus.
If you want to be lucky next year – on Christmas Eve you should eat an apple and count its seeds.
If the seed is paired, it means happiness, and if the seed will be more than 6, it means double luck. You should have some money in Your pocket on Christmas Eve. Thanks to this, money will stay with You for a whole year. Same with the Christmas Eve Fish. Retained in the wallet is supposed to keep money in it. In Poland We do not eat meat during Chirstmas Eve. We can eat meat after Midnight. On Christmas Eve the first person who comes to the house should be male. It keeps happiness. The woman is the opposite. On Christmas Eve You should not be cleaning or washed clothes should not be at home. It brings misfortune for next year.
So what is it like to spend Christmas Eve in Majorca?
It can be said that Christmas Eve in Majorca start already on December 22. Then the reading of the great Christmas lottery takes place. Many many people wins on this lottery. A single ticket costs 20 euros and every Spanish family is trying to buy even one! The results are read in Madrid and they are read by children from school for orphans in San Ildefonso. The lottery is very important for the Spaniards and literally they treat is like a Bank Holiday. Spaniards are buying tickets in many parts of Spain so they have more chance to win.
Christmas Eve in Majorca is just like ours, 24 of December.
In the evening, they sit down to dinner – Nochebuena. They go to church for Midnight Mass – La Misa de Gallo. However, children do not get a present that night. They get them 24/25 of December and 6 of January! And they celebrate 28 of December – Holiday of Innocents – Fiesta Santos Inocentes. Legend has it that the King Herod ordered to kill all newborn children to make sure that baby Jesus is also gonna die. However, this is not a serious festival and is treated as Polish Prima Aprillis – The day of Jokes.
Christmas Eve in Majorca is pretty the same like Polish.
On Christmas Eve in Majorca, the Spaniards go to the oldest of their family. Table must be abundantly covered, and there should be a lot of meat. Mandatory on the table should host JAMON – dried ham and consomé – kind of chicken soup. After that they put fish on the table, and baked pig or lamb. After meat there come a lot of sweets. There are a lot of them and most of them must be abundant in almonds. On the first day of the holidays there is another dinner, as in Poland. Mandatory dinner consists of vegetable soup with plenty of meat. In some regions also with the addition of sausages and blood sausage.. The soup is served with fried meatballs and chicken with plums, nuts and cognac.
Christmas tree and decorating the house in Spain is not as important as in Poland.
Spaniards did not attract the attention to the decorations, like we do. However, they invest heavily in the crib. In many stores you can buy ready-made cribs, just like all the parts you need to build it. The crib is an important element in the Spanish holidays. They can travel to other cities to get the best figurines and parts for the crib. They seem to spend a lot of money on it. Every year, their structures are becoming bigger and more complicated. The Spaniards do not share the wafer – they share Halvah.
Now in Spain it happens that children get presents 3 times. 6 of December, 24 of December and 6 of January. However, traditionally they should only get it twice. 6 of December and 6 of January. In Spain on the streets during the holiday season walk a creature, who is called “tio”. Children feed him with sweets and then they beat him with sticks, thanks to which he has to give away gifts! On the Epiphany Three Kings spread sweets and gifts around on the streets. During the day there are parades of Giants. The Giants are big dolls – Three Kings, Shepherds, Housewives and others. On the evening in Majorca Three Kings come to the port by small ship. From the beach, there is a procession who stop in the church.
Along the way, three kings spread and throw sweets to the children around.
The evening before the feast of the Epiphany kids put hay in theit shoes and put the shoes in front of the house. In the morning, gifts should appear in place of hay! A naughty children instead of rod they get a bag of carbon. Currently, children receive candy, which looks like carbon. They say they are very tasty!
And what about traditional food during the Christmas Eve in Majorca?
Traditional dishes on the table are: Sopa de Marisco, a soup with seafood and pieces of fish. Shrimps (Gambas) are displayed on the table, to be shared by all guests. Pig served whole, sometimes baked lamb. Figs may appear in depth the main dish. Polvorones and Mantecados are traditional Spanish sweets on the table during Christmas Eve. Like chocolate roulades or Turron – similar to nougat. You eat it in several versions, duro-hard with whole roasted almonds. Blando- soft, with ground almonds. Turrón de chocolate crujiente- chocolate and crunchy , as well as a version with candied fruit.
It’s time for New Year’s Eve.
In Poland, New Year’s Eve is the time to get drunk and dance the night away to have the next year better than last one. Accompanied by Firework and loud music. And in many major cities there are concerts in the City Centres. About Midnight Poles running out of the house with champagne and glasses to countdown together with neighbors and family to Midnight! At Midnight champagnes are opened, we all make a wish and share many hugs. And the fun goes on!
And in Spain?
It’s a bit different. There is no concerts, no fireworks. But for this is a very funny and at the same time interesting tradition! Eating grapes. The Spaniards sit in front of TV, watching the live broadcast of a Watch on the main square in Madrid – Puerta del Sol. Before Midnight people usually pull out the stone from 12 grape to make it easier to consume them. In Madrid, people gather with grapes on the square. Every time the clock is knocked out at Midnight, everyone has to eat one grape! If you do not make it – the next year will be unfortunate for you.
At this point, the Spaniards do not imagine New Year’s Eve without grapes.
Where does this tradition come from? One year, the grapes planted brought a huge harvest. Farmers were not able to sell every single one. Therefore, at the end of the year they sold them as grapes, which bring you happiness. The inhabitants of Madrid usually celebrated New Year’s Eve – Nochevieja getting drunk on the main square. The city authorities have decided to change it and introduced an admission fee to the square for alcoholic beverages. Residents as a protest brought grapes with them. And they ate one grape after each bell. Everything started from it. The news has spread and now you can buy special New Year’s sets of grapes in stores. Without seeds. With a soft skin etc. Ready for quick consumption.
As you can see, every country has its own traditions!
I love Christmas and I’m glad that this year I could learn so much about Christmas Eve in Majorca. I admit that I definitely prefer Polish, white holidays instead of Spanish, with palm trees. But I will gladly bring my tradition with grapes to my New Year’s Eve – it’s fun! What about Christmas in UK or America, Australia? Or other places You live in? Write in the comments below!
Happy New Year!