Barcelona – City of Christmas Lights

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Don’t we all just love the Mediterranean! And aren’t we grateful that we have its wonderful countries: for their food, their joie de vivre, the refuge they offer us at this or, indeed, any other time of the year.

Having said that, we must also admit that these countries are not perfect and that there are things they do not do very well. Things like, to name just one, Christmas.

The reason why Southerners struggle with the Northern idea of Christmas – which has become pretty much the global standard – is rather obvious: they don’t need it as much.

Across Northern Europe (and much of North America), November is already pretty much the last word in bleakness, but if it weren’t for Christmas – the lights, the commercial razzmatazz and the perfume ads on TV – December would be much bleaker still, by far the gloomiest month of the year.

Conversely, in Southern Europe, December is a much less terrifying affair – a little cool perhaps on some days when you will need an overcoat to go out, but overall sunny and dry, and certainly still warm enough to drink your mid-morning cup of coffee on the outside terrace by the beach.

Read also: Five Reasons to Visit Barcelona at This Time of Year

So when Mediterranean countries try their hands at Christmas, they generally get it slightly wrong, a little like French rock n roll or German sitcoms.

They are, however, getting better at it. The Silent Night Shopathlon that has been brought to them from north of the Alps may still sit a little uncomfortably on the shoulders of their own, older and gentler Christmas traditions, but Mediterranean high streets and city centres are becoming less clumsily derivative and more confident in exploring new ways of merging the old and the new, the native and the imported seasonal customs.

Barcelona – City of Christmas Lights

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As usual, Barcelona – perhaps the Mediterranean’s most internationalised city – is leading the way. Their Christmas market, the Fira de Santa Llucia for one, underneath the Cathedral in the city’s Old Town …

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… may be a little short on mulled wine and gingerbread, but scores high on local colour. You will see many things that you may not readily associate with Christmas …

"traditional Catalunyan Christmas logs Tio de Nadal."

Tio de Nadal (Catalunyan Christmas Logs)

… and some things that you would not associate with Christmas at all.

"Caganers - Traditional Catalan Christmas figures"

But the Caganers, the “little shitters”, have played the part of the uninvited, misbehaving guests in local nativity scenes for centuries – and today, you can purchase them in nearly all shapes and sizes, dressed up like famous footballers or politicians. Or, in the latest version, the full cast of Star Wars – The Force Awakens.

Barcelona also leads the way in innovative and original Christmas light designs. Different streets have developed different concepts, ranging from traditional, Christmas-tree-and-bauble inspired motives …

"Barcelona - City of Christmas Lights"

… including Jingle Bells or Christmas stars…

"Barcelona - City of Christmas Lights"

… to more abstract approaches …

"Barcelona - City of Christmas Lights"

… and the downright baffling, such as the squiggly human faces that are decorating Las Ramblas.

"Barcelona City of Christmas Lights at Les Rambles"

I also liked this motive, used by all streets around the inner-city Sant Antoni market just outside our apartment …

"Barcelona - City of Christmas Lights"

… which appeared to strike a slightly different note from the posher streets in more central and wealthier districts of Barcelona.

But my clear favourite was this one, also on Las Ramblas …

"Sunlit Christmas decoration on Las Ramblas Barcelona City of Christmas Lights"

… a Christmas light designed to unfold its dazzle only in the Mediterranean sunshine. Now beat that, London and Paris!

Do you think Barcelona deserves to be called City of Christmas Lights?

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8 comments to Barcelona – City of Christmas Lights

  • Priscilla, for us it’s the best part during the dark months of winter, really.

  • Love Christmas lights in any country, but these looked particularly lovely! The little Shitters were hilarious!
    Happy travels,
    Priscilla

  • Kristin, with “holy” this and “holy” that during this season, it’s refreshing to see that the Catalunyans keep their irreverent side intact.

  • Those are some gorgeous light displays! It reminds me a bit of the Christmas I spent in Singapore when they went really over the top with Christmas decorations despite being in possibly the least Christmas-y climate in the world! It was gorgeous to walk around and see though.

    And I love those little shitters. What an irreverent way to celebrate the holiday!

  • Oh, we totally enjoyed seeing these unusual traditions, Meg. I think the Catalunyan Christmas symbols and traditions are rather interesting and, unlike other southern countries(like Italy, for example), Barcelona has hit it just right with its uniqueness, fun and colour all round.

  • So very true about the Christmas lights, Patti! I suppose this is the only time and reason we appreciate the day getting darker early.

  • Haha!! I laughed so hard at the “little shitters”!! It’s obviously a little different to what you would probably expect from a Christmas market or celebration, though if every place were the same then nothing would be interesting – even if they’re getting it slightly wrong I think this makes it more worthwhile visiting – the entertainment factor in being so unique!

  • We had 3 days in Barcelona in May of this year and it only served to wet our appetites, leaving us wanting more. What a vibrant city and I love all of these photos of the light displays. There is just something about Christmas lights that soothes the soul, don’t you think?

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