What’s December like in Salamanca, Spain?
5th December 2023
As part of my degree, I spent seven months living in Salamanca, Spain. This is where I fell in love with the Spanish language and culture. Salamanca is a beautiful city a couple of hours north of Madrid, often nicknamed la ciudad dorada (the golden city) because of its beautiful architecture.
I experienced some Spanish Christmas festivities and as I was working in a school, I got to share English traditions with my students too. I spent most of December in Salamanca before flying home for Christmas and it was wonderful!
A few festive traditions in Salamanca…
Christmas light switch-on
The main hub of activity in Salamanca is in the beautiful Plaza Mayor. At the end of November, Christmas lights around the city get switched on. Every evening the bell in the middle of Plaza Mayor would light up and Christmas music would be played!
Nochevieja Universitaria de Salamanca
The University’s New Year’s Eve is one of the most well-known parties in Spain. Sadly cancelled in 2021 due to the pandemic, we still heard about previous celebrations from friends. I think it’s certainly worth mentioning here as it’s special to Salamanca! Even though it takes place a few weeks before the actual date, it is tradition that students celebrate the New Year in the Plaza Mayor and have a big fiesta before everyone goes home for Christmas.
El Gordo lottery
This is Spain’s National Christmas Lottery, with the first prize popularly known as “El Gordo”, drawn on 22nd of December every year. Tickets are sold in lottery shops and by sellers on the street. Sadly, we didn’t win but we saw the draw happening on lots of TVs in cafes and shops!
Here are a few key dates in Spain’s December & January calendar that you might not know about:
- 6th of December – Spanish Constitution Day. This day marks the anniversary of the 1978 Referendum in which Spaniards approved the current Spanish constitution.
- 8th of December – Feast of the Immaculate Conception – this is considered the first official day of Christmas celebrations for many. (Many Spanish people take 7th of December off too as a puente which literally means ‘bridge’, but in this context it means to bridge the time between the weekend and a bank holiday, so we had around a week off work including the weekend!)
- 5-6th of January – Los Reyes Magos (The Three Kings). Many people take to the streets of Salamanca on the 5th of January to welcome the arrival of the Three Kings. A big parade called Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos moves through the city during the evening, featuring music, costumes, and vibrant colours. On January 6th children receive presents, and many eat Roscón de Reyes, a sweet bread-like cake shaped like a crown, filled with cream, and topped with dried fruits.
I would highly recommend Salamanca as a place to visit all year round! The food, people, architecture and culture are all wonderful.