A Catalan Christmas tradition like no other, the caganer, or ‘Christmas pooper’, is a longstanding staple of every nativity scene in the north eastern region of Catalonia. Originally the figure, who has his trousers down and is defecating, is a little boy dressed in traditional clothes. Today, however, there is a booming industry in making poopers who look like famous people. You can pick up everyone from Donald Trump and the Pope to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lady Gaga. The figure is meant to symbolise good fortune for the year ahead.
Spanish company Gïk launched the world’s very first blue-coloured wine in late 2016, which raised a few eyebrows in the traditional wine community. The wine is made from combining red and white grapes with natural pigments and flavours. You can pick it up in wine shops across Spain or try a glass in selected restaurants.
Follow in the footsteps of Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Leonard Cohen, as well as flamenco legends including Paco de Lucía, by purchasing a guitar from Felipe Conde – the Conde family are master guitar makers who have been handcrafting their instruments for over 100 years. They’re not cheap – starting at €2,500 (£2,186) and reaching over €11,000 (£9,620) – but for a lifetime investment and a piece of rock history, they’re well worth the price tag.
A bota, or wineskin, is a traditional Spanish drinking vessel, usually used for wine, but it can hold any liquid. The method of drinking from a bota usually involves angling the wineskin so that the liquid can shoot out into the drinker’s mouth, without the mouth having to touch the bota. This way, people can easily share wine without all putting their mouths on the same part of the wineskin.
You might be able to pick up versions of this popular summer shoe abroad, but the genuine article can only be purchased in Spain. Casa Hernanz in Madrid has been making espadrilles, a rope-soled shoe, since 1840 and is one of the longest running espadrille manufacturers in Spain. Originally the shoe of the poor and working class, the espadrille came to worldwide attention when Lauren Bacall sported a pair in the 1948 film Key Largo. They have been a summer fashion staple ever since.
Jerez is the Spanish word for sherry and this southern town is the undisputed sherry capital of the world. There is no better place to learn about the fortified wine and take a tour or go to a tasting. Sherry was so popular in the United Kingdom that several of Jerez’s wineries were founded by British families.
Spain is home to the dramatic and passionate musical and dance style of flamenco, making it the perfect place to buy a flamenco dress, shawl or shoes. If you want something a little smaller, pick up some castanets, wooden concave shells that flamenco dancers clack together as a percussion instrument.
Spaniards adore jamón, a cured ham that is a staple of any tapas menu. Step into any bar and chances are there will be a ham leg sitting there so waiters can slice off thin strips, or several ham legs hanging from the ceiling. Jamón ibérico is Spain’s highest quality ham and is made from black Iberian pigs that subsist mainly on a diet of acorns. You can easily pick up packets of quality jamón in Spain, but why not go the whole hog (sorry) and take home an entire leg of ham? Your family will thank you for it.
Buy an authentic Spanish paella pan (and some saffron, the key ingredient of paella) and you can perfect the Spanish classic in your own home. There is a booming trade in paella pans in Valencia, home of paella, but you should be able to buy them throughout the country at markets and cookware shops.
This nougat-like sweet is sold around Spain in the run up to Christmas time and is a popular gift and souvenir. It is made from almonds, honey, sugar and egg whites and is served in a rectangular slab. Casa Mira, founded in 1842 in Madrid, was the capital’s first turrón shop and today is still extremely popular with locals.
Orujo (nicknamed ‘fire water’ by locals) is a spirit with over 50% alcohol content from northern Spain. It is particularly popular in Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia, where some local families have been making the drink for generations.
If you want to take a part of Spain’s party island home with you after your holiday, why not buy a can of Aire de Ibiza, ‘Ibiza Air’, a bottled sample of the island’s most abundant commodity? A couple of friends on the island began selling the product from an ice-cream parlour in summer 2016, and the product has been a hit with tourists ever since.
The island of Menorca first started making gin when it was occupied by Great Britain in the 18th century and British soldiers wanted to enjoy the familiar taste of their favourite tipple. Britain left the island in 1802, but Menorca continued to make gin, with commercial brands like Xoriguer taking hold in the 20th century. In 1997, the drink received the official denomination ‘Gin of Menorca’, so it cannot be made anywhere else in the world.
The Spanish classic cold tomato soup appears on many restaurant menus, but you might be surprised to see it also features on the menu at the popular fast food chain. So make sure to sample some gazpacho alongside your Big Mac and you can even enjoy a beer too – Spanish McDonald’s sells cerveza, unlike chains in many other countries.
They might seem like a bit of a stereotype, but a handmade Spanish fan, or abanico, is a beautiful gift to take home and a useful cooling down method during Spain’s stifling summers. It is a common sight in the country’s big cities to see women of all ages carrying a fan as it’s one of the cheapest, quickest and easiest ways to cool down.