Winter is such a cold and dark time of the year, especially in Europe. This is why you should holiday in Barcelona for winter. The sky is usually blue, and the temperatures are normally mild. During this time of the year, there are many fascinating Spanish and Catalan customs that you can experience. If you want to discover what’s on while you’re visiting head to the Barcelona website — it lists all the major festivals and events. If you’re getting tired of the cold winter, plan your holiday in Barcelona.
Barcelona has beautiful Christmas markets, which is definitely one of the biggest draws to holiday in Barcelona for winter and during the Christmas season. The markets sell the usual Christmas decorations and lights, but are also filled with traditional Catalan and Spanish gifts and trinkets, like Caga Tio and the Caganer (which I’ll explain all about below). You can also get your Christmas trees here, and you’ll usually catch a local picking up their tree with their trolley. There’s no mulled wine at these Christmas markets, but you can find sweets and a churros or two. The two biggest ones are La Fira de Santa Llucia and La Fira de Nadal a la Sagrada Familia.
La Fira de Santa Llucia
Location: Barcelona Cathedral plaza
When: 29 Nov – 23 Dec 1030 – 2230 7 days a week
La Fira de Nadal a la Sagrada Familia
Location: The park next to Sagrada Familia
When: 29 Nov – 23 Dec 1030 – 2230 7 days a week
Catalan Christmas Traditions To Experience
The Catalan Christmas traditions are super crazy and fun. The whole family can get involved, and you’ll definitely have a laugh or two. Just a word of warning before you continue, they focus heavily on poo. Catalonia is a province in Spain that has its own unique customs, history, and language. Barcelona is one of the major cities, and when visiting you should definitely get involved with some of their fun Christmas and winter customs.
This literally translates to Uncle Poo. Strangely, he is a log that you find in the forest and feed turrón to (a Catalan sweet, like nougat). The more you feed him, the more presents you will get. On the 24th December, the kids take sticks and sing a song about Caga Tío while hitting him. Doing this will supposedly make him poo out the presents. You can buy your own Caga Tío in all the Christmas markets. There’s also a giant Caga Tío at the Barcelona Cathedral Christmas market. The kids can join in the fun and get a small gift out of it.
This fun Catalan Christmas tradition is the figurine of a farmer going to the toilet. This is placed in any Catalan nativity scene and is supposed to bring prosperity and abundance. The tradition has evolved into figurines of politicians and celebrities all taking the famous dump. This will definitely be a Christmas gift that no one’s received before.
The Christmas lights in Barcelona are gorgeous, and it turns this time of year into something special and magical. The Barcelona Christmas lights turn on during the last Thursday in November. This is quite an event with drumming bands on the streets, parties, and shopping on Passeig de Gracia. The best places to see Christmas lights in Barcelona are Passeig de Gracia, Gracia, Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter and El Born. Book a late dinner and then wander around beneath the sparkling lights.
Correfoc literally translates to Fire Run in Catalan. It’s usually accompanied by a parade with drumming. There are two varieties of Correfoc. One is a type of float that is carried by one person on their shoulders, usually an animal or devil. Multiple fireworks protrude from it and when lit it spurts fire and sparks. The other more common one is handheld fireworks that the holder will spray over the crowd. All the participants wear protective gear and dress up as demons. It can be quite scary the first time you encounter a Correfoc, so try and stay to the back of the crowd. If you want to be really brave you can dance with the locals under the sparks (lots of families do this). Correfoc is kind of terrifying for your first one, but once you’re used to the noise and fireworks, the energy is infectious. Some notable festivals in winter are Festa de Santa Eulália, Festa Porkada del Clot, and Festa Major de Sant Antoni.
Gigantes of Barcelona
Gigantes is an ancient Spanish tradition. For most festivals, they will bring these out. Gigantes means giants, and this is exactly what they are. They are huge, puppet-like creations that rest on the bearer’s shoulders. They are usually biblical or from ancient times, like Queens, Kings, and servants. You will usually see them in a parade with music, or sitting in a plaza. Places to see this is Plaza Real and Plaza Sant Jaume. The Gigantes will usually start at Plaza Real and parade down the street to Plaza Sant Jaume. Festa de Santa Eulália is a great time to experience this and happens at the beginning of February.
Human Towers – Castells
Castells or Human Towers is one of the craziest traditions you will find in Barcelona. The idea is to build the tallest and most complicated human tower. They start with a large base and add layers of people, getting to sometimes six stories high. The tower is not completed until a seven-year-old climbs the tower, places a kiss to the sky and then descends on the other side. Most suburbs in Barcelona have a team and they will meet for competitions. These happen regularly in winter, usually in different plazas. The major competition takes place during the festival of Santa Eulàlia, which is the 8 – 12 February. Being Spain, you are allowed to watch this from right underneath the towers.
Calçots are harvested from December to March in Barcelona. A Calçot is a type of onion that has been grown in a special way to make it long and thin. Calçots are eaten at a Calçotada, which means Calçot BBQ. You need an open fire so the outside of the onions char while you cook them. Once they’re looking black and charcoaled, you take hold of the base with one hand and gently pull the top. If you do it correctly, the burnt outside should just slide off, leaving the succulent, sweet inside. You then dip this into Romesco sauce, throw your head back and put it in your mouth. It’s so messy, and so much fun. You can find Calçotadas on the streets during January and February, and some restaurants sell them as well (they give you gloves and a bib in the restaurant).