By Tom Tansey

Christmas is different in Spain, which means the month of December is different too. How is Christmas different? Well firstly, Christmas is not a major gift-giving celebration in the way it is in northern Europe,

ergo no merchandising onslaught from October onwards and no huge pressure to buy unnecessary gifts for the kids – the Spanish do give gifts, but not on the scale of ‘back home’ and not until the Night of the Magic Kings in early January. Christmas in Spain has not become the vulgar, materialistic excess it is elsewhere with all the ensuing insanity and stress; not yet anyway. So that’s great news!

Secondly, because of this, the things we do together are likely to be very different from Christmas in the UK. La Navidad feels like a celebration of family and community rather than an excuse to spend what we cannot afford and to drink too much. Since moving to Spain some 5 years ago I have learned that a Spanish Christmas is a joy. Truly, I have found it to be joyful.

On the Saturday evening before Christmas day, our village brass band will play in the village church; a mixture of traditional Spanish Christmas tunes, together with more popular numbers. Most of the villagers will be there and we might be the only non-Spaniards present. Look out for these events in your village or town. They are of course primarily religious, but you will be welcomed as members of the community and they do have a special feeling.

Here’s my advice on a ‘must do’ this month; the cities of our region are great places to be in the last week of Christmas. Both Murcia and Cartagena will have an atmospheric Christmas market and lights – check the cities’ websites for details. Markets or not, my advice is to go over to either city on a busy evening, the Saturday before Christmas ideally, not with shopping in mind but simply to sample the atmosphere. It is special.

So what other treats are there for la Navidad?

As usual, at the Auditorio in Murcia there is a programme of classical music in the lead up to Christmas, as well as a couple of popular highlights. Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith plays on December 6. I hope to be there to see a man who has worked with Elvis Costello, REM, Rod Stewart and Coldplay, to name but a few. When I first listened to Flamenco Music, one of the first names I encountered was Enrique Morente. Originally from Granada, Morente has been hugely influential in the movement to bring flamenco to a wider audience. If you have any interest in flamenco, you should to get along there on the 11th.

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¡Felices fiestas!