It can be said that the month of December is the most heartwarming, happiest time of the year, where everyone around the world becomes consumed with a vibrant sense of joy and merriment. Streets are covered with twinkling lights, Christmas trees appear in every window, and the faint sound of jingle bells can be heard at almost any moment of the day. It’s truly magical.
Barcelona during Christmas time is very much in line with that magical description, and I am so glad I have had the opportunity to experience this city at this time of year. Although the general idea and spirit of Christmas translate across all borders, the traditions and cultural customs of different regions create an incredibly unique, interesting experience of the holiday season. It’s nice to experience a different kind of holiday tradition, as it has helped broaden my perspective of holiday customs and develop a newfound appreciation for my own.
This past weekend, I took a trip to the Christmas market being held in the Gothic Quarter, in front of the Cathedral of Barcelona. As I went on a Saturday evening, the market was completely packed with people looking for new decorations for their homes. I had stumbled upon a Christmas wonderland in the heart of Barcelona. Each stand was full of ornaments, ribbons, mistletoe, dancing santas, and any other festive decoration you could think of. My favorite was the Tio de Nadal, a traditional Catalan log that is decorated with a face and a Christmas hat. The tradition is such that on Christmas Eve, after children perform several tasks, small gifts and candies will appear under the log on Christmas morning. I really took a liking to the Tio de Nadal, because I think it’s such an interesting way to go about the same sort of gift giving tradition that we associate with the holidays. It was nice to see people walking around the market preparing to purchase their own logs to keep the tradition going.
Walking through the Christmas market this weekend was just what I needed to boost my spirits. For students, this time of year can also be one of the busiest and most stressful, as finals draw nearer and nearer. Although learning about the different Catalan Christmas traditions was very interesting and exciting, it also strengthens my desire to go home and practice my family Christmas traditions. It’s a complex blend of excitement and nostalgia, but that’s just part of studying abroad during the holidays.