Winter in Barcelona

a selection of Caganer in barcelona

Winter traditions and things to do in Barcelona

Christmas is one of the liveliest and most joyful times of the year to be in Catalonia for sumptuous meals, traditional celebrations, and tons of holiday cheer. After all, the region is famous worldwide for its colorful traditions that go back centuries.

The key to celebrating Christmas like the Catalonians is to know what happens when, what to look out for, and where the most exciting events are taking place. Of course, you need to know which traditions to embrace so you can celebrate Christmas and enjoy the holiday festivities like a true local. From La Immaculada to Caganer, here are top Christmas traditions in Barcelona that you don’t want to miss out on.

Winter is a great time to visit Barcelona!

Feast of the Immaculate Conception (La Immaculada)

Kick off your holiday season on the right foot with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. La Immaculada is commemorated on December 8th and is often regarded as the official start of the traditional Christmas celebrations in Barcelona. Although it’s not exactly a special occasion or a bank holiday, the celebration is an incredibly serious tradition for most members of the Roman Catholic community in Catalonia.

As you might infer from the name, La Immaculada is celebrated in honor of the miraculous conception of the Mary Immaculate. Note that no traditional activities or events occur during this occasion. However, most Catalonian families come together, gather in churches, dine in restaurants, and enjoy their company away from work and other worries of life. 

Catalonians also commonly spend time as family or friends shopping at the traditional Christmas markets. Besides, they also start decorating their homes in readiness for the Christmas festivities ahead.

a christmas market in Barcelona

Browse the Traditional Christmas Markets in Barcelona

Nothing beats the feeling of browsing the colorful decorations, gifts, and other holiday charms at Barcelona’s traditional Christmas fairs. It’s where the holiday magic starts and is a must-visit during the holiday season’s early days. The best time to visit these markets is from December 8th onwards, during or right after the Immaculate Conception celebration.

The best of the bunch include Fira de Santa Llucia. The traditional Christmas market is a two-minute walk from the famous Barcelona Cathedral, putting it smack dab in the heart of the cathedral square. Catalonia’s oldest Christmas market has been held yearly since the late 1700s.

The Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia is the other impressive Christmas fair. The action happens at the entrance to the Sagrada Familia.

a christmas market in barcelona

Nativity Scene

The Nativity Scene, or pessebre, is fundamental to the décor of Catalan houses during the Christmas season, as it is in many other nations throughout the world. In addition, it is frequently set up as part of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In Catalonia, it is typical to find not just the classic nativity scene but a whole recreation of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth, replete with cork for the hills and moss for the grass.

The most important part of the nativity scene is the manager, which is left empty until Christmas Eve. That’s when you place baby Jesus into the manger. Surrounding the manager are the classic nativity scene pieces, including the 3 wise men, Joseph, Mary, Angels, and farm animals. In addition, there’s one more character you’re not likely to see anywhere else in the world: Caganer (more ahead on this figure).

a nativity seen in Barcelona

A strange winter tradition: Caganer

Christmas decorations in Barcelona include all the clichés. We’re talking about mistletoe, colorful lights, Christmas trees, and the nativity scene; you name it! However, Catalonians take their pesebres (aka nativity scenes) to a whole new level with an additional character called the Caganer.

People in Barcelona are obsessed with this figurine. And their belenes won’t be complete without the “shitter.” The caganer portrays a villager removing his trousers and emptying his bowel right among the wise men, angels, farm animals, and other characters found in the traditional nativity scene.

He is so well-known and plays such an important role in Christmas traditions that you can see him all over the place throughout the month of December. You’ll find these beauties in City Hall, in front of churches, and at traditional Christmas markets.

They can be modeled after prominent people, so expect to see famous footballers like Messi.

a traditional Caganer in barcelona christmas statue

Enjoy Winter Festivities at Sagrada Familia

The many statues and sculptures found at the façade and the entrance to the Sagrada Familia are usually lit up during Christmas. The light show is delightful, accompanied by a musical narration that will be the highlight of your holiday season. The show at Sagrada Familia usually lasts about 15 min and is repeated several times throughout the evening.

It’s free to enjoy the show. However, the capacity of the Sagrada Familia is quite limited, so you might have to enjoy the show from the street. On top of that, there’s a Midnight Mass held on Christmas Eve at Sagrada Familia, helping you celebrate the birth of Jesus in style. The ceremony starts at seven in the evening, and mass is free to attend.

la sagrada familia at dusk

Enjoy Christmas Dinner with Loved Ones

Christmas Eve is an important day for the entire family in Catalonia and throughout Spain. The major Christmas feast is eaten on December 24th, though the food offered in Catalonia differs from the rest of the country. The traditional Catalan appetizer is called escudella de galets. It is a soup with big, snail-shaped pasta shells created from the liquid generated when the meat course is boiled.

The carn d’olla, or pot meat, is taken from the broth and served separately as the main dish. Typically, this will contain a range of meats, a giant meatball large enough for the entire family to share, and a selection of traditional winter veggies. It is a substantial, satisfying stew served at Catalan dinner tables since the 1400s. This dinner is typically accompanied by cured meats, red wine, and cava. In addition, the family will utilize the occasion to exchange token presents, generally gifting the youngsters modestly-priced instruments that they will use to entertain their relatives with Christmas carols.

These are just but a few Christmas traditions that make the holiday season so much more enjoyable in Barcelona. Others include Poo Log, Feast of St. Stephen, Three Kings’ Day, and Cap d’Any.

a street at Christmas in Barcelona

That’s it for our guide to Winter in Barcelona for some more great ideas on amazing things to do while you visit Barcelona please check some other posts from our Blog.

Joan Miro Barcelona

Joan Miro Barcelona

A quick guide to Joan Miro a world renowned artist who has born in Barcelona! Get in the know before you go!

A Quick Guide to Antoni Gaudi Barcelona 

A Quick Guide to Antoni Gaudi Barcelona 

Antoni Gaudi is not just one of the top architects in Barcelona but the world he is world famous for a reason and we will learn all about him in this instalment of our quick guide series.

Park Güell Barcelona

Park Güell Barcelona

A Quick Guide to Park Güell Barcelona will give you all the information you need to know about Park Güell before you go! This is a must do day out while in Barcelona!

A Quick Guide to Camp Nou Barcelona

A Quick Guide to Camp Nou Barcelona

Our Quick Guide to Camp Nou Barcelona will give you some info about the heart of football in Barcelona, the Camp Nou! We cover all the basics about this very important Barcelona landmark!