Foto de Jonathan Meyer: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/figuras-de-los-reyes-magos-1597584/
Your trusted Marbella real estate agent and property specialist on the Golden Mile.
20th December 2023
By Michael Dolan
New Years Eve & Three Kings on the Costa del Sol.
Whether you are a long-time visitor, resident; or if this is your first time experiencing the festive season on the Costa del Sol, you can see how beautiful Marbella, and the surrounding areas of Estepona, San Pedro del Alcántara, Benahavis, and Mijas Costa are, during the Holidays.
Fabulous lights and amazing decorations, all to a backdrop of blue skies and sunny days, perfect! And there is just so much happening, with parties, parades, celebrations, and exhibitions. Some you may recognise, and others which are entirely new.
In our last blog we talked about the December holidays and Christmas traditions; here we carry that on a bit further by discussing New Years Eve, rituals, customs and more. Plus, the festival of the Three Kings (6th January), a hugely important day in the Spanish calendar.
New Years celebrations on the Costa del Sol.
31st December is New Years Eve, and like almost every country in the world, Spain has its own customs and traditions.
Starting them off, and probably one of the most widely known, is ‘las doce uvas de la suerte,’ the twelve grapes of luck. The idea is to eat twelve (green) grapes, as the clock chimes midnight. Eating the grapes is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity for the year ahead.
Beginning at the first stroke of midnight on ‘Nochevieja’, New Year’s Eve, and then keep going, with one grape eaten with each clock chime, which represents each of the twelve months of the coming year: as one-year changes to the next. Tradition says you must finish them all before the last chime fades. If you manage the feat, you will have a year filled with luck.
Many believe this custom began in the early 1900s, when the Alicante grape growers had a bumper crop year, and it was used to get rid of the excess stock. Most Spaniards do eat the white Aledo grapes, which are grown in Alicante. These grapes are protected from the weather and pests with paper bags as they are grown, giving them a soft, fine skin. Easy to eat, quicker to chew!
However, there are written reports of the ritual dating back to the late 1800s (about 1880). It is understood that the custom grew from the burgeoning middle class Madrileños, copying the French by drinking champagne on NYE. And it is alleged that the eating of the grapes was a way for the “poorer” members of society to mock them.
Now if you really want to improve your chances of experiencing good luck for the upcoming year, you need to be wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve (whilst you eat your grapes!).
There are several slight variations on this particular custom. The Spanish believe that wearing red underwear, which is deemed to be the colour of passion and love, helps Cupid find your soul mate. In some parts of Spain, the underwear must be a gift you have received, and in other parts you must have given the underpants away by the end of the night.
It is thought that the tradition to wear red comes from medieval times, when men would drape a red cloth over their groin to protect the ‘family jewels’, from any mischievous witches who were out on the streets making trouble and casting spells at the turn of the year.
Colourful underwear on NYE is not just a Spanish tradition. In Latin American countries they say wearing yellow brings good fortune. In Brazil, wearing brand new white underwear is a way to inspire good luck and fortune. In Italy it is very popular to wear red underwear throughout the festive season, as it is supposed to bring luck and love, and on NYE potentially a baby. Many Italian women who hope to conceive in the coming year, wear red underwear, as it is the colour of fertility. And whatever you do – don’t wear black on NYE! That is rumoured (all over the globe) to be unlucky.
Drinking Cava – with something gold in it.
If it is good fortune and health, you are hoping for in the coming year, then drinking Cava (the Spanish equivalent to Champagne), with something gold dropped in it, is the way to go. A wedding ring is popular, particularly with newlyweds. You need to drink the whole glass down and reclaim the gold item. Though be careful as you drink that you don’t choke on whatever you’ve popped in the glass, that would completely defeat the objective!
Starting the year on the right foot,
This tradition dictates that you literally must start the year on the right foot. Make sure you put your right foot ahead of your left one, as you eat your grapes! Some say that the custom really means when you enter your house for the first time in the New Year your right foot must step in before your left. If you are feeling superstitious, then we suggest trying both.
There is a similar custom in Scotland about the first foot. This states that the first visitor who enters after the stroke of midnight, should be a dark-haired male, bringing coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and of course whisky.
Where to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
In Spain it is common to enjoy dinner at home, with all the family. Then either just before, or some will wait until after they have done the grapes and cava, to join other families, friends, and neighbours in the town square, where they have a bar and music.
If you are there prior to midnight, the grapes are consumed to the chimes of the town clock, with local celebrities and dignitaries counting in the new year. Then there are firework displays, which is followed by music and dancing into the small hours.
The most famous town square is the Puerta del Sol, in Madrid. Since 1962, the change of year has been broadcast across all major national television networks and radio stations, from the clock of the Royal House of the Post Office in Puerta del Sol.
In Marbella 2023, the party will be at Plaza de la Iglesia de la Encarnación. You can eat the traditional midnight grapes to the chimes of the church’s bells, before listening to the Velada y Arenal Orchestra.
In Estepona the popular ‘End of Year’ party will be held in Clock Square (Plaza del Reloj). Starting at 11 pm, with distribution of party favours, the traditional bells to welcome the New Year, and a large display of Fireworks.
Another date worth noting, is the now traditional New Year’s concert, featuring the municipal bands of Marbella and San Pedro de Alcántara. It will be held on January 3rd at 6:00 p.m. in San Pedro Alcántara Square.
Churros with chocolate.
After all that fun…. The last stop before making your way home will be to the local churros stand, for hot churros with chocolate. This is a type of dough, made with choux pastry, fried in very hot oil, and dipped in sugar, served with a hot chocolate sauce for dipping. (A bit like a hot, fresh, doughnut). Absolutely delicious!
Lentil stew on New Year’s Day.
Following on the Spanish new year’s traditions into New Years Day itself. The traditional lunchtime food to eat is lentil stew, lentejas, (with or without chorizo). It is said that the shape of the lentils represents coins, and that purportedly, eating them will bring you good fortune in the upcoming year.
With all the above in mind, all that is left is to wish you, Feliz año nuevo! or ‘Happy New Year!’.
Festival of the Three Kings in Spain.
In Spanish culture, the festival of the Three Kings (Fiesta de los Reyes), is a bigger deal than Christmas day, and it is a big gift-giving, family-focused day. Celebrations start on the 5th of January, the eve of the Three Kings Day, which is also the Twelfth Night.
The feast of the epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day (Dia de los Reyes), is a religious holiday that falls on the 6th of January. It is the day when Christians commemorate the baptism of the baby Jesus and the arrival to Bethlehem of the Magi (also called the Three Kings or the Wise Men, some suggest they were astrologers), who presented him with their gifts.
The bible says the Magi – three wise men from the east - followed a “miraculous guiding star”, that had appeared in the sky when Jesus was born, across the desert which led them to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph with the newborn Jesus. On arrival Melchior (from Persia), Caspar (India) and Balthazar (Arabia) presented him with gifts of “gold, frankincense (which is a resin used in perfume) and myrrh (tree gum)”, which is why many Spanish children receive their main presents on the morning of the 6th.
The Three Kings Parades (La Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos).
In almost every town, village, and city in Spain there will be a parade on the eve of Three Kings. People will line the streets to see the processions, which can consist of mechanical floats, cavalcades of cars, themed floats, dancers and street performers, and a celebration of the “Kings” arriving.
As the parade passes handfuls of confectionaries are thrown out into the crowd, adults and children alike, jostle to catch as many sweets as possible.
Here on the Costa del Sol, you will find Three Kings Parades in all the major towns. (Check on local websites, like the ayuntamiento, in the run up to the day for accurate information and timings).
In Malaga - you can purchase tickets for the seated area of the Paseo del Parque, the Plaza de la Marina and the Alameda Principal, where the parade will pass through, on the eve of the 5th. The local brotherhoods’ association (Agrupación de Cofradías) has announced that tickets will be on sale from Wednesday 20th December, on their website.
In Marbella - the Three Kings usually arrive by boat at the Puerto Deportivo at around 11am/12pm on the 5th of January to be greeted by the mayor of Marbella before being driven through the streets in open-top cars to the ayuntamiento (Town Hall), in the Old Town, and the Costa del Sol Hospital. To get a good spot it is advisable to arrive in the morning. There will be another themed procession along the main road, Avenida Ricardo Soriano in the evening, at around 6pm, again arrive early if you want to get a good spot. Note: if you are driving, many streets are blocked off and inaccessible by car.
In Estepona - the whole day is packed with activities for children. At 12pm on the 5th of Jan, a children's party is held at the Palace of Exhibitions and Congress. From 5 pm onwards the Cavalcade of the Three Wise men, accompanied by music and bands, will pass through the centre of Estepona, handing out a ton of sweets.
Three Kings Traditions.
After the parade has finished, families will go home to leave out their freshly polished shoes, ready to be stuffed full of presents by the visiting Kings. They will also leave the King's cake or turron (a typical Christmas sweet made from almond), and bread and water for their camels.
For Spanish children, this is like Santa Claus arriving with all the presents, and is eerily similar to the common UK tradition to leave mince pies and milk for Santa, carrots for the reindeer, and stockings for the presents.
Children will also have written a letter to their favourite King. This generally happens in the days and weeks that run up to the festive season. These letters are collected by the King’s Royal Page, Prince Aliatar. He gathers letters from all over Spain and delivers them to the Kings, so they can prepare the correct presents.
It is said, if you have been well behaved all year, then you will get the presents you asked for. However, if you have been naughty, you could find a lump of coal instead. Nowadays the lump of coal is usually a sweet made to look like coal, which is given to remind children there is always room for improvement!
Three Kings cake (Roscón De Reyes).
Now popular throughout the festive season, but traditionally a treat saved for breakfast on Three Kings Day, (after the presents have been opened); or given whilst visiting family throughout the day collecting more gifts. The Roscón de Reyes is a very special cake. Ring-shaped and filled with almond, cream, chocolate mousse or chocolate truffle and decorated with candied fruits.
Not only is it delicious (and very sweet), but it also holds within it, a tradition. Inside the cake are two surprises, (and a paper crown). The surprises are a small Christmas themed figurine (quite often a king), and a bean. It is said that whoever finds the figure will have great fortune through the new year, plus they get to wear the paper crown. And whoever finds the bean, will have to pay for the cake!
Chalking the door.
It was believed that the Three King’s could protect people, and many would etch the king's initials C.M.B at the door to their homes to keep demons, disease, and witches away. This continues to be a tradition for good blessings.
Done either on the eve of the epiphany, or on the day itself; Christians, Catholics included, will write on their doors, or the lintel over the door. Using chalk, that has been blessed by a priest or minister, (which is where the practice gets its name). They will inscribe a symbol that asks for God’s blessing upon those who live, work, or visit this place, throughout the coming year.
This coming year's characters are 20 + C + M + B + 24, and are said to signify 2024 for the year, the crosses to represent Christ, and the initials for the Three Kings (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar). Though some people translate the initials to “Christus mansionem benedicat” (Latin for ‘May Christ bless this house’).
January in Marbella
Golf, hiking, cycling.
After all that eating, drinking and revelry, you will be pleased to hear that January’s weather is normally very mild, meaning you can get out and about and walk off some of those calories. It does get cold in the evenings, but daytimes are perfect for getting in a round of golf, on one of the Costa del Sol’s 70 plus golf courses.
See our blog - https://www.dolanproperty.es/news/golf-on-the-costa-del-sol if you are looking for somewhere to play.
Or there are miles of walks that you can take along the seaside paseos – look at the Senda Litoral website (https://www.sendalitoral.es/en/) where you can find details of the almost 200 km-long path that connects beaches and ports along the Málaga coastline.
Inland you will find plenty of nature trails, perfect for both walking and cycling. And, if you want something a little more challenging, Marbella is home to La Concha, the highest mountain in the area. Further out, but still in the Malaga province, is the jaw-dropping El Caminito del Rey.
Whatever you decide to do, we wish you a Feliz año nuevo! And look forward to seeing you all in 2024.
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