White Christmases are few and far between on the Costa del Sol. Instead, red and gold tinsel adorn beach chiringuitos and santa hats and decorations are sold in sun-soaked stalls and on sidewalks lined with palm trees. The Spanish share many Christmas traditions that are similar to the rest of Europe and spending time with family and friends during the holidays takes centre stage. But with average temperatures of 18°C and bright sunshine throughout all of December, there are many ways to spend Christmas on the Costa del Sol and many Spanish traditions that differ greatly from those of countries with colder climates in northern Europe.
On Christmas Eve, Andalucían’s traditionally prepare ‘Pavo Trufado de Navidad’ (turkey stuffed with truffles), with all kinds of seafood as starters and sides, including shellfish, mussels and lobster. At midnight, many families exchange gifts and go to church for ‘La Misa del Gallo’, the Mass of the Rooster. Christmas Day is celebrated with long lunches at home or at a restaurant with family and friends, eating lamb (cordero), oven-baked sea bream (bezugo al horno) and grilled cray-fish (cigalas a la plancha) for mains, and nougat (turrón) and Andalucían buttermilk cookies (mantequados) for dessert.
The 28th of December marks ‘Dia de Los Santos Inocentes’, the equivalent of April Fool’s Day in the UK and USA. On New Year’s Eve, the Spanish gather in squares around the country and eat 12 grapes in unison with the last 12 strokes of the clock before midnight. Each grape representing a month of the coming year.
Finally, while people in the rest of Europe start to fold away their Christmas decorations and sweep up the remaining confetti, the Spanish prepare for one last, and arguably the biggest event of the season, the ‘Fiesta de Los Tres Reyes Magos’. On the 6th of January, the three biblical kings, ‘Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar’ appear personified in every town and city across the country in festive parades, large and small, to commemorate the three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Children receive a large majority of their gifts during the day and attend the parades to collect the candy the three kings scatter across the streets as they pass. Families will have another big meal together with a ‘Roscón de Reyes’ for dessert, a sweet oval pastry topped with figs, cherries or dried and candied fruits.
Local traditions aside, here are a number of other ways to spend Christmas on the Costa del Sol:
Spend the Day/Evening in Malaga
Malaga is just a 20 minute drive from Benalmadena and a 40-50 minute drive away from Marbella and Puerto Banus, and is an enjoyable day out for family and friends at any time of the year. There are also fast and reliable train connections between Fuengirola and Malaga with Renfe. During Christmas, there is an impressive light display on Calle Larios, with a light and music show every evening at 6:30 and 9:30pm and a warm, festive ambience in every tapas bar and restaurant in the city.
For further information on other things to do in Malaga read our recent blog article, ‘A Day Out in Malaga’.
Go to the Beach
While the beaches on the Costa del Sol during the summer months are a hive of activity, during the winter, the famous southern coastline of Spain is largely frequented by locals on a morning or afternoon stroll. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is offered by a huge variety of bars, restaurants and chiringuitos dotted along the coastline, and mealtimes with friends and family can be enjoyed accompanied by the ever-present, glistening Mediterranean Sea.
Visit a Christmas Market
Visit the typically Spanish quaint towns of Mijas and Benalmadena Pueblo for traditional Andalusian ceramics, leathers and handmade goods. There are also three Christmas markets in Benalmadena (Avenida Antonio Machado), Fuengirola (Plaza de la Constitución) and Malaga Centre (just behind the port and Muelle 1.)
The Costa del Sol has more than 30 shopping centres, business parks and department stores and a score of independent shops selling products ranging from locally produced arts & crafts to luxury couture fashion and exclusive items.
Ski in Sierra Nevada
With a capacity for almost 30,000 skiers per hour and the greatest skiable vertical slope in the country, Sierra Nevada is just a 2.5 hour drive away from Marbella and is Europe’s most southern ski resort. The mountain range has 105km (70 mi) of alpine skiing runs, a total of 115; 16 Green, 40 Blue, 50 Red, and 9 Black that can be reached by the various chairlifts, cable cars or t-bar lifts.
Visit our recent blog article here for further information on Sierra Nevada.
With a number of excellent courses to suit a variety of skills and desires as well as a wide ranging choice of resorts, the Costa del Sol is a remarkable golf destination. There are over 90 golf courses and golfing resorts in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia. 70 of those golf courses can be found dotted along the Costa del Sol, four of which are ranked amongst the top 10 in Europe. Considered among some of the most prestigious courses in the world, golf courses on the coast include the highly rated Valderrama Golf Club, the San Roque Golf Club, La Reserva and Los Naranjos.