Christmas Cooking Traditions in Spain: Christmas Eve & the Feast of San Esteban

Christmas celebrations start early and go long in Spain, as the religious holiday season typically starts in early December with a festival, and lasts into the new year for Los Reyes Magos, or the day of the Three Kings, on January 5 or 6. Many of the celebrations also include food, the traditions of which you can discover during our Spain cooking classes and our culinary vacations.

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One such Christmas tradition in Spain is the Christmas Eve feast. This meal often begins with a soup, known as Carn d’Olla, that is made with a meat stock as well as some pasta, called galets. The rest of the meal includes a meat dish, as well as a variety of tapas – like eels and langoustines – that can be easily passed and shared around the table.

Traditional Christmas caga tiò logs, part of Catalonian Christmas traditions.For dessert, it’s not uncommon to enjoy a variety of sweet treats, like turron (nougat), and almond candy called polvorones. All of these treats come from Caga Tió, or the “Tió de Nadal,” which is a tree trunk where a child’s treats and small gifts are hidden (a tradition similar to stockings in the U.S.). Of note: the word “caga” translates to “poo,” so it’s basically called “poo log!” The tradition is that you beat the log until it defecates your Christmas treats. Yikes!

The feasting, as well as the drinking of cava, doesn’t end there either. For one, in the Catalan region and Costa Brava, the Feast of San Esteban is quite popular. This meal takes place on December 26, when the family takes the leftover meats and rolls them into pasta to make cannelloni.

Take part in a Spanish holiday tradition and learn to make cannelloni, and other classic dishes, in our Spain cooking classes, such as the Boqueria market visit and cooking lesson in Catalonia’s Barcelona.

By Liz SanFilippo Hall

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