Spanish Culture & Society

¡Feliz Día de San Valentín!

Valentine’s Day in Hispanic countries

In Spain, Valentine’s Day (El Día de San Valentín or El Día de Enamorados) is celebrated on 14th February in much the same way as in the UK and America. Restaurants are fully booked, cards, flowers and chocolates are sent. In most of South America it is known as “El Día del Amor y la Amistad” (Love and Friendship Day). This day is not just for lovers but friends also go out for dinner.

Here are some romantic words and expressions related to love and relationships in Spanish: Continue reading

5 Lucky New Year Traditions in Spain

12 lucky grapes

Every New Year’s Eve (Noche Vieja) people gather in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid to hear the chimes of midnight ring out. Upon each chime it is traditional to put a grape in your mouth and if you manage to eat all 12 you will have good luck through the coming year. Shops sell packs of 12 grapes especially for this new year tradition. Often they are not seedless grapes, making it even more of a challenge! It is a really funny experience especially when you have a go for the first time and you are surrounded by people laughing – it is not easy to achieve! Continue reading

5 Weird and Wonderful Spanish Christmas Traditions

Everyone knows Spain likes to party. They have a fiesta for almost any reason throughout the year, however, especially at Christmas time, when they stretch out the celebrations for longer than us here in the UK, (from 22nd December with the Christmas lottery until 6th January – Kings Day) they have some really funny fiestas and superstitions. Here are the top 5 weirdest Christmas traditions in Spain: Continue reading

El Gordo (The Fat One) – Spain’s Christmas lottery

Spain’s Christmas lottery, “El Gordo” is not only the biggest lottery in the world but also one of the oldest, having started in 1812. It works differently to most lotteries. This year the total prize pool amounts to £1.95 billion being distributed around the country. There is a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize, plus over a thousand small prizes to be won which is why the draw, held every 22nd December takes three and a half hours.

This year the draw is taking place in the Teatro Real Opera House in Madrid. Many people attend the live lottery draw wearing fancy-dress costumes (disfraces), armed with good-luck charms (amuletos), and holding placards (pancartas) with slogans on them. Find out how Spain’s Christmas lottery is drawn and how the winnings are divided here: Continue reading

It’s Carnival time in Spain!

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival: PartyWhen is Carnival?

The week leading up to Lent in late February is when Spain celebrates Carnival (Carnaval) when some of the wildest parties take place.

Why is it celebrated?

There are various ideas as to the origins of the Carnival celebration. Some believe the word “Carnival” comes from the term “farewell to the flesh” referring to the excesses which led to Lent. Others believe it is related to the Roman Solstice event, the “Saturnalia” during which people drink and dance to excess.

Read more about the origins behind the Carnival celebrations here. Continue reading

Why you must visit the Alhambra palace, Granada.

La AlhambraWith over two million visitors a year it is easy to see why the Alhambra, known as the “Jewel of Moorish Spain” is well worth a visit. Here are a few good reasons why:

Beautiful location:

The Alhambra is an ancient palace-fortress built by the Arabs in the middle of the fourteenth century which sits on a hilltop overlooking the Andalucian city of Granada with the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background. You can see the beautiful Alhambra palace from miles around.

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Paisaje Cultural Cafetero – Salamina, Caldas, Colombia

Salamina 0Salamina is a beautiful, colonial town perched on the top of a mountain in the middle of the coffee region of Colombia. It is part of the Cultural Coffee Growing Landscape (Paisaje Cultural Cafetero) declared World Heritage by UNESCO and has also been declared one of the 14 towns that make up the Towns of National Heritage (Pueblos Patrimoniales). Salamina was founded in 1825 and still preserves much of its colonial architecture with wonderfully carved wooden doorways, beautiful balconies decorated with hanging flower baskets and houses built with guadua and bahareque (guadua bamboo, wattle and daub). Continue reading

Las Fallas festival, Valencia (1st – 19th March)

Las FallasValencia’s biggest festival, “Las Fallas” is celebrated every March and dates back to the middle ages. It is a pagan ritual to commemorate the patron Saint Joseph. It is also thought to represent the end of winter and welcome the spring through spectacular pyrotechnical displays, explosions and parades. If you go to this riotous Spanish fiesta, don’t expect to sleep much as there is 24-hour partying and explosions going off throughout the night. Read on to find out what to expect from one of Spain’s most spectacular Spanish festivals. Continue reading

Popular Spanish sport: “Pádel” (Padel tennis)

PadelPádel is a Spanish racket sport which is becoming more and more popular across Spain and other European countries such as Belgium, Austria, France and Italy. It is similar to tennis with a smaller court but the same line markings. Surrounding the court are high walls of glass or solid material. Scoring is similar to tennis and you can play singles or doubles matches.
The racket is more like a large table tennis bat without strings and you serve underhand rather than overhand.

When it was first played in Spain in the 1970s it was mainly played by the upper classes. However, these days it is played by anyone and everyone of any age, making it a game that the whole family can enjoy together. It is thought to be more intense and fun than tennis and perhaps a little easier to play.

Nowadays all the main towns and cities in Spain have “pistas de pádel” (padel courts) with inter-club tournaments and national circuits. The “Federación Internacional de Pádel” was officially formed in 1991 and by 1993 the game was recognised as an official sports category. Continue reading