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The Incredible Nativity Scene Carved Out of Sand on Las Canteras Beach in Gran Canaria

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There is an unusual nativity scene on the beach in the capital of Gran Canaria which is perfect for all the family at Christmas

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Las Canteras, in the heart of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is considered one of the best urban beaches in Europe. The area is protected by a volcanic barrier, known as La Barra. This means that the water around the strip of golden sand are calm and full marine life which makes it ideal for snorkelling. The weather in the Canary Islands is great all year round with temperatures normally hovering between 22 and 24 degrees Celsius. The beach of Las Canteras is right in the heart of the city of Las Palmas, so a day on the beach can be paired with a shopping experience or a trip to the cinema. There are many bars and restaurants in the vicinity for every taste as well. Las Canteras is the perfect place for nativity scene sand sculptures because it has great weather; it is close to a bustling city; and it is right next to a beautiful beach.  

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The nativity scene is very popular. More than 200,000 people from all over the world visit it each year. It opens in early December and lasts until the magical kings’ festival in early January. The exhibition site, promoted by the city council of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is more than 1000 square metres in size and is located near the Plaza de Saulo Torón, in the La Puntilla area. The nativity scene is up to five metres in height. Artists use water and 2000 tons of sand to create the sculptures. 

 

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2006 was the first year that sand sculptures were made at Christmas in Las Canteras, and the tradition has been growing in popularity ever since. Often prestigious artists work on the project. Famous collaborators include Aleksei Rynak, Alexey Shcitov, Aleksei Dyakov, Vadim Gryadov, and Mikhail Fedotov from Russia, Leonardo Ugolini and Michela Ciappini from Italy, Enguerrand David from Belgium, Sanita Ravina from Latvia, Benoît Dutherage from France, Sue McGrew and Kevin Crawford from the United States, Karen Jean Fralich and Guy-Olivier Deveau from Canada, and Jonay Ruiz from the Canary Islands. 

 

 

 

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The sculptures in Las Canteras contain the traditional aspects of the nativity: the baby Jesus, a manger, the holy family, the angels, the Magi, the ox, the donkey, and an assortment of shepherds and villagers. But also, in the background, emblematic parts of the Canarian landscape are included such as the large rock formations Roque Nublo and la Caldera de Tejeda.  

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The sand nativity scene on Las Canteras beach is part of the Canary Islands charitable network. Donations from visitors to the nativity are passed on to help maintain soup kitchens in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Each year more than 20,000 euros is raised. On top of this, many thousands of kilos of food are gathered at the nativity site. (In 2019-2020 3,800 kilos of food was collected.) 

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Educational workshops that run alongside the nativity scene in Las Canteras are an integral part of the Christmas programme. Visits are taken from schools directly. And there are options for individual families to come and have a go at arts and crafts. Activities include lessons in sand sculpture.