Christmas is special everywhere because each place on earth has its special traditions. Barcelona is not an exception. Shopping and delicious warm meals can wait but these things to do in Barcelona for Christmas only happen once a year!
Many Mediterranean countries have lovely alternatives for the Christmas tree: el pessebre, a model of the nativity with all kinds of figures. So one of the things to do in Barcelona for Christmas is visit local pessebres or make one of your own.
The most iconic one is the one the city council places at Plaça Sant Jaume, in the Gothic Neighbourhood. Obviously it’s bigger than the average one you can see in many Spanish homes, but for Barcelonians, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it.
Not far away from Plaça Sant Jaume, in front of the Cathedral, there’s the Fira de Santa Llúcia where you can buy everything you need to build your own pessebre, from moss to figures to amazing decoration. Kids would love something from here as a souvenir. It starts on Santa Llúcia day, on the 13th of December.
The Poo Log
People always get surprised about this but Christmas in Barcelona and Catalonia can get very scatological. Brace yourself and have fun, because this was the tradition I enjoyed the most as a child. One of the things to do in Barcelona for Christmas is… cagar el tió (or “to shit the log”). Let me explain. Every home owns a Tió or el Tronc, that has the facility of giving (by expulsing through the back door) your presents and sweet things if you kick it strong enough with a stick on Christmas Eve. During this ritual you must sing a certain song and the tradition says you’ve got to feed it during the previous days so it can “poo” better presents. Some foreigners see this as a tradition that teaches children to be violent, we see a lesson for a very tough life… And the funniest way possible to get presents!
The Tió is not the only scatological tradition we have for Christmas. Among the things to do in Barcelona for Christmas, there’s buying a caganer (a poo man), which I’m sure is one of our most surprising and funny souvenirs. You can get one easily at Fira de Santa Llúcia because in every pessebre there must be a caganer. The legend says that this man was a shepherd that went to adore Jesus at Bethlehem but… had a little urgency on the road.
For us it’s a way to keep Christmas fun and the idea has grown until the point that caganers are for Catalans what The Simpsons are for pop culture… you are not famous if you don’t appear as one! We’ve probably built as a caganer the president or prime minister of your own country… Check the picture above: there’s Doraemon, the Smurfs, Homer Simpson, Rafa Nadal, Fernando Alonso, the Barça players…
The Three Wise Men Parade
OK, I had clear instructions of ending this with a “normal” Christmas idea. Because we are also serious people and we are able to offer you “normal” things to do in Barcelona for Christmas. The Cavalcada de Reis is one of them. On the night of the 5th of January, the Three Wise Men come to town to bring presents to children (Santa Claus also delivers presents here, but the night from the 5th to the 6th is for the Three Wise Men). To celebrate it, they do an awesome parade from the shore (they normally arrive by ship) through the streets of the city. The assistants of the Three Wise Men (patges) throw sweets and do amazing shows during all the route. Perhaps the absolute must for Christmas in Barcelona.
As you see, there are lots of things to do in Barcelona for Christmas. If you visit us, you’ll be amazed because the city will offer you a really different face: more traditions, fun stories and well, yes, obviously, a shopping paradise.