The Spanish are famous for their bizarre festivals. Here are just a few weird traditions you might come across at Christmas time in Spain.
A Catalonia specialty, the caganer is a little porcelain gnome-like figure with his trousers down who is seen defecating somewhere in the nativity scene. Children enjoy looking for the little guy, who is usually hidden among the more traditional items.
Surprisingly, the caganer wasn't invented by the post-South Park generation: he's been offering his unique presents to the nativity scene since at least the middle of the 18th or 19th century, depending on who you believe. One thing's for sure: no Christmas market in Barcelona would be complete without a stall dedicated completely to these ornery figurines.
Caga Tio is a log painted with a smiley face who is cared for from El Dia de Inmaculada (December 8) until Christmas. On Christmas Day or Christmas Eve (it varies), the children beat the log (and throw him into the fire) singing songs enticing it to "shit some presents."
This quirky character is also particular to the region of Catalonia, which clearly didn't think that one scatological Christmas tradition was enough.
Multiple New Year's Eves
Rock band Wizard may well have wished it could be Christmas every day, but in Spain, it seems to be multiple New Year's Eve that they long for. They already have six occasions to celebrate it, with the earliest (or latest, depending on how you look at it) taking place in August! That honor belongs to the Andalusian town of Berchules, which shifted its celebration to the summer after an accidental power outage cut their actual NYE celebrations short. The party was so popular that they now repeat the New Year's Eve celebration every August.
Red Underwear Running
In the village of La Font de la Figuera near Valencia, locals celebrate the arrival of a new year by stripping down to their underwear and running through the streets. One important point if you are going to join in next year: the underwear must be red.
Day of the Innocents
The Day of the Innocents is Spain's version of April Fools Day, except it takes place on December 28. In days gone by, children used to go from door to door asking for sweets, much like on American Halloween. Bakers used to put salt in their cakes on this day to wind up the children.
Most of this has now given way to more mundane activities, like sticking paper cut-outs to people's backs and other silly practical jokes.
Flour Throwing at the Els Enfarinats Festival
The Day of the Innocents goes that bit more absurd in the town of Ibi, Valencia, where the inhabitants throw flour at each other for reasons that may have been lost to the mists of time.
Grape Eating at the Stroke of Midnight
If you're out in a public place in Spain on New Year's Eve, you will notice that everyone around you is carrying a handful of grapes. At the stroke of midnight, everyone will gobble them down: one for each gong of the bells. For each grape you get down, you will have a month's good luck in the coming year, but Spain's not the only country that has a food tradition for New Year's luck!