Winter in the Sun: Canary Islands’ Christmas Traditions
Visitors to the Canary Islands at winter are often taken aback by the warm weather, mild temperatures, and scarce rainfall. Only a four-hour flight from most European cities, one can bask in the sun and swim in the sea throughout the winter. And when they travel to the Canary Islands in the winter, guests have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the islands’ charming and unique Christmas customs.
Welcoming the New Year with a Dip
For beach enthusiasts, starting the New Year at the beach is irresistible, especially in the Canary Islands where it is just as feasible in winter as it is in summer. Although not an official tradition, many locals in the Canary Islands bid farewell to the old year at beaches like Las Canteras Beach in Gran Canaria and welcome the new one in the same spot. Every 1st of January, a significant number of people in Gran Canaria’s capital city opt for a rejuvenating plunge to kickstart the year with enthusiasm and New Year’s resolutions.
As December unfolds, Gran Canaria commemorates Christmas with an impressive sand-sculpted nativity scene on the exquisite Las Canteras Beach. Crafted by international artists, this ephemeral beachside artwork stands at over five meters in height, creating a splendid display of transient art. Alongside this, the tradition of ‘Ranchos de Pascua’ in Lanzarote is also observed, with various groups strolling the streets, singing songs in remembrance of the departed, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of tambourines and castanets. This four-century-old tradition offers a nostalgic journey into the past.
Three Kings Processions
If you find yourself in the Canary Islands on the 5th of January, you can partake in the revered Spanish tradition of the Three Kings parade. Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar lead processions through the main cities and towns, distributing gifts to all the children. This colourful spectacle includes characters from stories, musical bands, and dance groups, especially aimed at the eagerly awaiting children, who anticipate the arrival of the gifts they’ve been wishing for all year. Additionally, the solemnly beautiful ‘Autos de Reyes’ recount the Wise Men’s journey to Bethlehem and are enacted in towns like Agüimes in Gran Canaria, El Sauzal and Tejina in Tenerife, and Garafía in La Palma.
Christmas in the Canary Islands is not just warm but also sweet, characterized by the presence of ‘truchas,’ a typical festive dessert and an absolute mainstayat any proper Christmas Eve supper. These crispy pastries, passed down through generations, come in various flavours such as sweet potato, syrupy pumpkin, almond, egg, and lemon. In some towns, these delicacies are sold at stalls, perfect for enjoying on the go.