Christmas in Mallorca
There is plenty to do for Christmas in Mallorca. We have prepared an article with many suggestions about things to do, places to visit, events, Christmas markets… so you can make the most of this festive period. Christmas in Mallorca is a wonderful time of the year. The weather is nice, it’s cold enough to need a coat, but not so bad that you don’t want to be outside enjoying the lights and wandering around the markets.
During the next weeks we will be posting more and more information, and we encourage you to leave your comments with questions and suggestions.
For many local people in Mallorca, Christmas starts with the lighting of the Christmas lights. Every town and village in Mallorca proudly puts up its Christmas lights every year but the most popular are in Palma. In 2019 they will be switched on on 28th November. Since about 3 years ago, it is always the day before the Black Friday.
The next important date in the Christmas calendar is the “Puente de Diciembre”. This long festive break rests on two very important dates that are national holidays: December 6th and 8th. The first of these dates is the Constitution Day, a day that has been celebrated since 1983. Just two days later, the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary day is celebrated. On this date the holiness of the Virgin Mary is remembered from the moment of her birth. It is a day that has been celebrated in Spain since 1644.
The importance of the Puente de Diciembre lies in the fact you can get easily 3 or more days of holidays, and many people either travel or they spend it at home in Mallorca. Mallorca also receives many visitors from other parts of Spain during this important period. This is taken into consideration for many offers, Christmas markets and events. From this date until the 25th December, many villages and town halls organize different events, Christmas markets, special Christmas-themed guided walks, especially based around gastronomic offerings and traditions based around the festive season.
The Christmas holidays in 2019 start on Friday December 20th, and they will have a different duration in each region of Spain, because the night of the three kings falls on Sunday January 5th 2020. On Monday 6th, the day of the three kings, it will be a public holiday and also on Tuesday 7th in many regions of Spain. Normally, the Christmas holidays start on the 23rd December and, on the 22nd we have a special event in Spain which is the “Sorteo de Navidad”, the famous Spanish national lottery. This is a very important custom for ordinary folk who hope to have their dreams of becoming an instant millionaire realized. Lottery tickets for this draw are on sale all year and there are many superstitions about where to buy the ticket. The tickets are sold all over the country but many people believe some shops are more lucky than others and other people like to buy a ticket from somewhere else other than their own region and may travel to Madrid from Mallorca just to buy their lottery ticket for the Sorteo de Navidad! One ticket costs 20€, hence why it is an annual draw and not a weekly lottery.
On 24th December we have “Nochebuena”, Christmas Eve. This is a very special date for the people of Mallorca. We have a family dinner, with plenty of food and wine. Each house has its own traditions, but the menu normally starts with a soup, then fish and meat, and for dessert, the typical “turron”. Turron is a very typical Christmas dessert or sweet snack that comes in many flavours but which the most traditional version can be likened to nougat. Nowadays in Mallorca children usually receive some gifts from Santa Claus after Christmas Eve dinner or on Christmas morning. But sometimes it is just a small thing, as we have still the Three Kings to come on 6th January.
Christmas day, on 25th is also reserved for food and drink and a family lunch of “lechona” or roast suckling pig is celebrated. The whole day is based around this meal: preparing it, then eating it and then sleeping it off! The evening meal of Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena, is normally celebrated per household but the lunch meal of the 25th December is a whole family affair and there can easily be upwards of 50 people eating lechona together for lunch, what with mums, dads, kids, aunties, uncles, cousins, grandmas and grandpas and other family friends that might show up. It is often a chaotic meal with lots of laughter and noise and everyone trying to talk at once. Because this lunch is shared by so many people together, there is rarely a house big enough to seat so many, so it is very usual in Mallorca to hold these lunches in the garage of a typical townhouse. In fact, many people who own a traditional townhouse in Mallorca have their garage purposely converted into a dining room with kitchenette especially to hold these family get-togethers! On the morning of Christmas Day and in the days leading up to it, there is often a lot of drama based on who has an oven large enough to roast one of the suckling pigs before taking it along to the Christmas Day lunch!
On December 28th , the “dia de los santos inocentes” is celebrated, commemorating the killing of children ordered by King Herod. That day, the Spaniards spend jokes called “innocent”, similar to those of April Fools Day in other Western countries. Even some newspapers and television networks come into the game publishing fake news to tease their audience.
On the evening of January 5th, we welcome the Three Kings. This celebration comes from when the baby Jesus was visited by the three wise men that came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And this is finally when the children get their presents!
On the night of the three kings, there are parades in all the towns and villages of Mallorca and everyone comes out of their houses to greet the kings. The parade goes through all the main streets and there are different floats based on Christmas themes, Disney films and things that are in fashion. Sometimes the floats change from year to year and sometimes we see the same ones as previous years. What never changes is that the people on the floats throw out small boiled sweets or chews to the crowds and there is a big scramble to see who can catch the most. The last three floats are always those dedicated to each of the three kings. That night, the Kings bring gifts to the good children and coal to the bad ones, although this coal is usually sugar. The children leave some candy for the kings and their pages, and some milk for their camels. The tradition varies slightly per household and per town: in some towns it is possible to arrange with the town hall for the very kings from the procession to deliver the presents to the door of the house later that evening, but more typically, the children return home from the procession to find that the kings have been while they were out and have left their presents ready for them to open. This is when most households exchange their Christmas gifts.
The family meal of the following day of Kings ends with the typical roscón sweet pastry in which a figurine and a bean are usually hidden. The person that finds them inside their slice of the roscon can expect fortune for the following year.
Things to do in Christmas in Mallorca
Here is a list of choices for things to do and places to visit during the Christmas period. If you click on the photos or the title, you will be taken to a page with more info.
Christmas in Mallorca is a very special event. It is an ideal time to go for a stroll around the city or your village to see the lights and to combine it with a hot chocolate, “churros” or some shopping.
Click on the title, and discover everything about the Christmas lights in Palma and Alcudia.
The Mediterranean might not be famous for the Christmas Markets of Northern Europe, but if you are in Mallorca over Christmas, there are some very pretty Christmas markets to walk around in Palma, such as on Las Ramblas, in the Plaza de España and in the Plaza Mayor. These markets spring to life in the evenings of the days leading up to Christmas and are a great way to get festive: enjoying the display of Christmas lights and strolling around the stalls.
Click on the title, and discover everything about the Christmas markets in Mallorca.
Discover a traditional culture: the Betlenes
This is something that is very typical in Mallorca at Christmastime and must not be missed. Traditionally each household would put together and display over Christmas its own Betlem (Bethlehem), which the adults and children would make together. The Betlem is essentially a nativity scene and can be as big or small as the space available. Throughout the year the family would collect or make figurines to use in their Christmas nativity scene, with typical scenes such as Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the stable, the shepherds, the three wise men following the star, etc. and it would be proudly displayed over Christmas, much as the Christmas tree is in households in other countries. Nowadays people don’t tend to make their own Betlems (although many still do); instead they go out to see the big professional ones, such as the one in the Town Hall of Palma, in the Corte Ingles department store and in churches. These massive Betlems that can take ten minutes to walk around are spectacular. As well as showing the usual nativity scenes, they also incorporate the traditional scenes from Mallorcan life so there will be a scene of a shepherd with sheep and a sheepdog in a field dotted with olive trees, there will be a wine cellar and vineyards, an olive oil mill and figures of people going about their daily lives of tending to the chickens, doing the washing, etc
A route of the Christmas Nativities in Mallorca is an interesting plan to spend time before Christmas and will get you in the Christmas spirit. In Mallorca, Nativity scenes are an important part of the Christmas celebrations. A lot of institutions, churches and shopping centers have their own Nativities for their visitors in the lead up to Christmas. Click on the photo or the title to learn more.
Go to listen to the Sibila on Christmas Eve
To be posted on 20 december
Go ice skating:
Ice skating at Christmas is now very popular in Mallorca and there are “ice” rinks in different parts of the island, the largest being those in the Plaza de España in the centre of Palma and at Palma Aquarium. If you decide to go ice skating at Palma Aquarium, you could take the opportunity to visit the aquarium while you are there and make a whole day of it. As well as all of the breathtaking sea life to discover at Palma Aquarium, over the Christmas school holidays there is always extra entertainment and activities for children and families.
Visit a convent:
There are many convents in Palma in which the nuns bake traditional and delicious cakes and biscuits and sell throughout the year. Often over Christmas there are special charity events in the convents or in the church connected to the convent and it’s also a great chance to try these excellent baked goods.
Visit your town hall or tourist information centre:
Every town and village of Mallorca has its own Christmas programme of events so wherever you are staying over Christmas in Mallorca, make sure you get a copy of the programme so you know when there are concerts, fireworks, processions, Christmas markets or contests for children.
What we do on Christmas
In Mallorca our festivities kick off on Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, in Spanish. As with all celebrations, different families and households have their own traditions or variation on the typical celebration, but in Mallorca on Christmas Eve we can generally count on three things:
The Sibila is a tradition that is super important in Mallorca because the island is one of only two places in Europe where this ancient tradition still takes place and the local people are proud to keep the old celebration alive.
The most similar thing that we can liken the Sibila to in other Christian cultures is Midnight Mass, and maybe the origins are the same. The people of Mallorca leave their warm and cosy homes late in the evening to go to their local church where they can hear the Song of the Sibila. The Sibila is a local child (traditionally a girl) who has been chosen for her angelic voice to sing at midnight (though nowadays the service sometimes takes place at other times during the evening depending on the church). She sings an old hymn of both joy and sorrow, predicting the arrival of Baby Jesus and about Judgement Day.
If you would like more information about the times of services at churches around the island, some history of the Sibila and the lyrics, read our other post in this Christmas in Mallorca series dedicated especially to the Song of the Sibila on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas Family Dinner
The night of the 24th December is very important in every household in Mallorca and in every fish market in Mallorca! The days leading up to Christmas are when you will find the most expensively-priced seafood of the whole year! That’s because on Noche Buena (The Good Night) the typical dinner is one of lobster, prawns, crab, razor clams, mussels and fish. The cook of the house (mother or grandmother usually) is kept busy with the task of sourcing the best deal on the best seafood during the days before Christmas and has a very busy day on Christmas Eve preparing it all for the evening’s celebrations. The whole family gathers round and shares their best wine vintages and excellent seafood at an elaborately decorated table and it is always a night to remember.
After the sumptuous meal, while the adults of the family are sharing coffee, chocolates and liqueurs, the kids are opening presents. That’s right; here the presents are opened at night time before bed, not in the morning. Opening presents on Christmas Eve is a relatively new concept in Mallorca and perhaps not all families indulge; some preferring to wait until the eve of the Three Kings when presents are more traditionally exchanged in Spain. Nowadays with the influence of Santa Claus and international films, not all families wait until the arrival of the Three Kings to give the presents. In most cases though, the present are still given on the eve of the Three Kings but often one gift or a few small ones are given to the kids to open on Christmas Eve so that they can say that Santa Claus has visited them.
On 25th December: Christmas Day
What we eat for Christmas?
On 25th December we get our stomachs ready for yet another feast in Mallorca! This time it’s a whole family affair: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends of the family… There are huge get-togethers all over the island for mouth-watering roast suckling pig. This is a lunch time gathering and normally begins around 2pm and finishes when it finishes.
Because the groups of people are so huge with extended families, few homes have the space to host them so the celebrations usually take place in the garage of a typical Mallorcan townhouse. These are the houses that are in the centre of the village or town, their front doors opening right onto the street and with shuttered windows. The look deceivingly small from the front but once the front door is opened, these houses go on forever. And one thing that these townhouses in Mallorca always have is a massive garage; one that is rarely used for keeping cars, but which is normally fitted with a kitchen, a bathroom and space for an enormous table.
Depending on the size of the family, several suckling pigs are needed. And the poor cooks from the previous evening are up at the crack of dawn trying to wedge this beast into their oven. This is a much more rustic affair than that of the previous evening’s formal dinner in which people don’t always get fed at the same time and crockery rarely matches, but everyone mucks in. The din that is created at these get-togethers is something that Mallorcan people have perfected as an art and comes from shouting across and down the table and general merriment. The noise can be daunting to the uninitiated
The 3 Kings
Beginning of January: Before the Arrival of the Three Kings
The Pajes Reales are the royal pages who come into town on behalf of the three kings to collect the Christmas letters written by local children requesting their favourite toy. The children post their letter to their chosen king in the royal post box outside the town hall. On the day that the royal pages come into town, the families assemble outside the town hall to greet them and to witness the collection of their precious letters.
Each village makes its own Christmas events programme but on this day there are usually things going on for children like entertainment, and some towns have their Christmas Market in the streets.
On 6th January: The Eve of the Three Kings
The Cabalgate is the procession of the Three Kings that is celebrated all over Spain on the eve of the Three Kings to celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men to Baby Jesus. In Mallorca, it being an island, the procession of the Three Kings is particularly special because to many places the kings can arrive by boat, making the procession spectacular.
The boats carrying the kings arrive at around 6pm and as the kings disembark the band begins to play and starts to lead the procession through the streets. The band is followed by many floats with people dressed up in costume who throw sweets out to the crowd as they parade past. The extravagance and number of floats depends on the size of the town but there is always an amazing festive atmosphere and anticipation in the air. The Three Kings are on the last three floats of the parade and the children cheer as they pass, throwing out even more candy.
The parade ends up at a prominent landmark and official speeches are made, wishing everyone a happy Christmas.
The night of the Eve of the Three Kings is when families in Mallorca traditionally exchange their gifts, and while many now also give gifts on Christmas Eve, it’s still more typical to do so on the Eve of the Three Kings. After the procession, families return home to see what the kings have brought them. Sometimes the children find their gifts waiting for them when they open the door, if the “kings” have been and left them while they were out, and sometimes it happens later.
In many parts of Mallorca, it is possible to actually have your child’s presents delivered by the kings themselves. After the parade, when everyone returns to their homes, the kings and their helpers set off around the houses delivering presents that the families have left at the town hall earlier in the week, making a truly magical experience for any child.
On 7th January: The Day of the Three Kings
This is officially the end of the Christmas celebrations in Mallorca. You can probably guess how this day is celebrated in many households in Mallorca: we eat!