Perhaps the most curious of the Catalan christmas traditions, the caganer is a small figurine of a bare-bottomed pooping man. If the origin and meaning of the caganer are unclear, one thing is certain: he is an essential part of any Catalan nativity scene. While the traditional caganer wears a white shirt and a Catalan hat, modern versions are made to represent famous figures such as politicians, celebrities and TV characters.
Very similar to the French nougat, turrón comes in to kinds: one crunchy and one soft. Very typical at this time of the year, turrón makes a for a great gift when going to someone’s house for dinner, or as a stocking filler for anyone with a sweet tooth. You can buy turrón in supermarkets, but for a taste of something special you’re better off buying it from a speciality store instead.
As Christmas approaches, you’ll find these sweet treats piled high in shops and specialist bakeries across Spain. A type of shortbread biscuit made with nut flour, polvorones get their name from the Spanish word for powder, polvo, owing to their dry, crumbly texture. It’s basically acceptable to eat polvorones at any time of the day when it’s the holiday season, so be sure to fill your boots.
A DIY nativity scene
Creating your own nativity scene is a popular pastime here in Spain and in the markets you’ll find everything you need to create your own. From small pieces of wood, moss and wool to create a natural setting, to motorised water pumps and hand-painted figurines, you’ll be impressed with the wide range of materials and props you’ll come across.
A bottle of Cava
Nothing quite says ‘it’s party time’ like the sound of a cork popping. Catalonia is the biggest producer of the Spanish sparkling wine, known as Cava and there are hundreds of different producers to choose from. In most cases a bottle of Cava will cost a lot less than its French equivalent, and for €20 you can find a premium bottle.
Artisan christmas decorations
The Fira de Santa Llúcia is Barcelona’s oldest and most famous Christmas market, taking place outside the cathedral in the Gothic Quarter. In the market you’ll find numerous artisan stalls selling handmade gifts as well as ornaments made from local materials such as wood, leather and ceramics. Find something special to hang on your tree and you’ll be reminded of Barcelona year after year.
Give your granny something to replace her sherry this Christmas by bringing back a bottle of Moscatell wine. Made from muscat grapes, this sweet wine is traditional around Christmastime and is the perfect accompaniment to dried nuts and fruits or the aforementioned polvorones. The grapes are naturally high in sugar and give off a lovely floral aroma that evokes orange blossom and nectarines.