When people visit the Canary Islands for Christmas, they are very surprised by the warm climate, with mild temperatures and barely any rain. Because, just four hours away from most European cities, you can sunbathe and swim in the sea all winter long, in addition to experiencing some of the islands’ pretty and curious Christmas traditions for yourself.
When December arrives in the islands, it’s good to know that Gran Canaria welcomes Christmas with a spectacular nativity scene sculpted out of sand by various international artists on the fabulous Las Canteras Beach: a splendid display of ephemeral art by the sea that reaches up to a height of more than five metres. And not quite as striking, but very traditional, are the ‘Ranchos de Pascua’, still celebrated in Lanzarote to the rhythm of tambourines and castanets played by various groups of people as they wander the streets singing songs to remember the dead. A beautiful four-century-old tradition that transports us back to the past.
Bringing in the year with a swim
Beach lovers won’t be able to resist starting the New Year on the beach, especially in the Canary Islands, where it’s just as possible in winter as in summer. It’s not exactly an official tradition, but many Canary Islanders like to see out the old year on beaches such as Las Canteras Beach, on the island of Gran Canaria, and welcome the new one in in the same place. Every 1st January, more than a few people in Gran Canaria’s capital city decide to take a refreshing dip and start the year off on the right foot and with lots of resolutions.
Autos de Reyes
If you are in the Canary Islands on 5th January, you can experience a major Spanish tradition: the parade of the Three Wise Men. Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar parade through the streets of the islands’ main cities and towns before giving gifts to all the children. A colourful spectacle with characters from stories, musical bands and dancing groups, especially for the little ones, who are waiting excitedly for the next day to see if they have been brought what they asked for because they have behaved well. A little more serious but solemnly beautiful are the ‘Autos de Reyes’, which tell the tale of the Wise Men’s journey to Bethlehem and are acted out on the same night in towns such as Agüimes, in Gran Canaria; El Sauzal and Tejina, in Tenerife; and Garafía, on La Palma.
Canary Islands cakes
There is no doubt that Christmas in the Canary Islands is warm, but it is just as sweet as ‘truchas’, the typical festive dessert that cannot be missing at any proper Christmas Eve supper. Made from sweet potatoes or syrupy pumpkin (the most typical ones) or almond, egg and lemon, the recipe for this sweet, crispy pastry has been passed down from generation to generation and retained pride of place. In some towns, you will see them being sold at stalls for eating on the go.