Festivities usually start around the 22nd of December and continue until the 6th of January when the 'Three Kings' arrive and gifts are exchanged.
The National Christmas lottery, 'El Gordo, the fat one', is held on the 22nd of December and tickets can be bought in bars and on the streets from ticket sellers. Tickets cost around 20-25. The winning numbers are sung out by school children on national television.
Another tradition not to be missed is the wonderful 'Belenes', which are displays which depict the nativity scene (Belen means Bethlehem in Spanish). These can be found in homes, churches, and public spaces. There is usually a huge one in the departures hall at Malaga Airport.
On Christmas Eve 'La Noche Buena' cities like Malaga and Seville are crowded with people enjoying the spectacular Christmas lights. In rural areas the celebrations start early in afternoon. In local bars and restaurants you will find large gatherings of families and friends from all generations enjoying the spirit of Christmas. You may also come across the carol singers, 'Los Campanilleros', which in itself is a moving experience.
Early on Christmas Eve the local community will start to drift towards their homes to enjoy a meal consisting of Seafood starters, plates of ham and cheese along with local specialities followed by the traditional turkey.
Usually only small gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve as traditionally the time for giving and receiving more substantial gifts is on the 6th of January.
In most cities, towns and villages on New Year's Eve, 'La Noche Vieja', people will gather in plazas to enjoy local entertainment and of course the obligatory class of Cava (or two!) whilst waiting for the chimes that signal the arrival of the New Year. Usually the celebrations are rounded off by a fireworks display.
On the 5th of January in many towns and villages a parade will take place called 'Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, which heralds the arrival of 'The Three Kings'. There will be floats with children and adults all dressed in costumes, followed by local bands and town dignitaries. Those participating in the parade throw sweets into the crowds and this will cause a scramble amongst the children watching, to see who can collect the most sweets. A word of warning here the sweets thrown are normally boiled and one has to be careful that they don't loose an eye!
The festivities end on the 6th with the exchanging of gifts and then it is back to normality until Easter which is an entirely different experience altogether!