In Spain, the holiday season lasts for practically two weeks…

…from Christmas Eve through to Three Kings on January 6th, and it is their Royal Majesties, not Santa, who bring the presents.

Before going to bed nobody should forget to leave biscuits and water for the Kings and their camels and a shoe where the Kings will leave their gifts. And a word of warning - those who have not behaved will only get charcoal, albeit it be sweet charcoal!

There is a wide range of regional culinary traditions but what is shared by all Spanish families are the sweet dishes – “polvorones”, “mantecados”, “turron”. Inside the “Roscón de Reyes” are hidden surprises: who gets the bean must pay for the Roscón (and must suffer bad luck for the following 12 months); who gets the King will enjoy good luck.

Spainally has an international team so let us tell you about the different traditions.

Fiona - My childhood Christmases were very English: the house would be decorated with fairy lights, tinsel, advent calendars, Christmas cards, a wreath on the front door and, of course, a Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve we would place a stocking at the end of our beds, and I remember the excited anticipation of what presents we would find under the tree in the morning.

Christmas Day lunch would begin with the pulling of crackers so that we all wore our silly paper crowns all the way through the meal. The menu would be turkey with roast potatoes followed by mince pies, Christmas cake or pudding for which my father had the job of preparing the brandy butter. I remember not eating but dissecting the pudding in search of the one charm or coin that my mother would hide in it!

Helle - For Danes, the running up to Christmas is just as important as Christmas itself. The Danish Christmas officially starts on the 4th Sunday prior to Christmas with Advent (meaning “arrival”). Every Sunday we light a candle of the “Adventskrans” decoration, which every Danish household has.

Since 1962, all Danish children and families follow the “Julekalender”, a Danish Christmas Story shown on television like a calendar story with a daily chapter starting on 1st December and culminating on 24th December, the most important evening of our holidays, when Santa brings presents and we dance around the Christmas tree after dinner.

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