Culture and Society News
The essence of Christmas time in the Canaries
December 2022

Cultural heritage, ancestral traditions, local flavours and a unique aboriginal legacy. The Canary Islands have their own essence, incomparable, different and full of nuances that make them unique. Christmas time in the Canary Islands is celebrated with different traditions than in Mainland Spain. Rituals and customs that people have maintained for centuries.

The essence of Christmas time in the Canaries

La Graciosa, the eighth wonder of the Canaries

Christmas doesn't exist without its traditions. Those that have survived the passing of the centuries have been transmitted from parents to children, from one generation to another, the old customs that have been preserved, maintained and repeated year after year. And each area has its peculiarities. Christmas time comes along with rites and traditions where the family tends to be the common denominator of a tale, with the sound of celestial music and industrial quantities of sugar. Everything gets illuminated with lanterns, candles and coloured garlands, with red, green and gold as the main wintery colours. The Canary Islands have their own Christmas traditions. The theme is the same, but those who travel to the Canaries at Christmas time will be surprised to discover that their Christmas traditions are slightly different from those of Mainland Spain. To begin with, the gastronomy of the island is different. We have the traditional chocolate, sweets, andpolvorones (kind of shortbread cookies), but in the Canaries, the most typical Christmas dessert is the trucha de batada (sweet potato trout). They are delicious small puff pastry pies filled with sweet potato and almonds, although they can also be filled with cabello de ángel (jam made from Siam pumpkin), custard cream or chocolate. Not forgetting the other traditional dishes such as thestuffed hen (gallina rellena), thebizcochos lustrados (lemon cakes), almond cheese, goat meat or the pasteles de Los Realejos (small puff pastry pies filled with guava).

Absolutely delicious!

The climate is another great difference at Christmas in the Canaries. While the rest of Spain is celebrating with their coats on, here, the tradition is to welcome the new year with a swim, a symbol of purification and renewal. Traditions such as the Ranchos de Pascua take their origins from Mainland Spain, but they have prevailed in the Canary Islands for over four centuries further to the Franciscan influence. The Ranchos de Pascua are music bands and carol singers that go from village to village, and from house to house singing carols and collecting donations for the deceased's masses. There is also the ancient custom of the Tajaraste del Niño in Tenerife and La Gomera, a dance in honour of Baby Jesus. Each December 24th, after midnight mass, a group of people gets dressed as shepherds and dance to the sound of traditional music and instruments. One of the most famous Christmas carols in the archipelago is “Lo Divino” (the divine), from Fermín Cedrés. This is where the Grupos de lo Divinostem from, groups that sing carols in the streets on the days leading to Christmas Eve. Some traditions are the same wherever we are. We are talking about the nativity scenes, that are put up inside homes, on the squares, doorways, or in the town halls in villages and towns in Spain, and that attract a large public for their technical peculiarities or ornaments,whichdiffer depending on the geographical area. An unmissable visit every Christmas time. The Cabalgatas (Three Kings' Parade) also take place all over Spain and are mostly known as the Autos de Reyes in the Canaries. Children and adults come out in the streets to welcome the Three Kings, who tend to travel with their entourage of pages in their royal carriages or on camels. One of the most famous Auto de Reyes in the Canaries is that of Agüimes, in Gran Canaria, which has over 300 extras. Traditions leave traces, they are never outdated because they are vintage by nature, and every generation likes them. Let’s discover Christmas time by hopping from island to island, and enjoy their heritage.

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