Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way… yep, it is that time of the year again! If you plan on spending your Christmas holidays in Seville it will definitely not be a white Christmas – which doesn´t mean the Sevillians don´t celebrate Christmas! So, what is it that they do? Well, besides playing the Christmas lottery (El Gordo, the Fat One) on Dec. 22th, having a very large family dinner (copious even to the Spanish!) on Christmas Eve and partying hard afterwards.
There exists yet another important Christmas tradition: nativity scenes. Not that in the rest of the world nobody creates Christmas cribs, but in Spain it has become something of an art form, and the competition is intense…
A nativity scene is called belén in Spanish. The word means Bethlehem – which is very appropriate, as Spanish Christmas scenes tend to depict at least the entire town of Bethlehem, if not the whole of Judea! Not only the infant Jesus (el Niño), Mary and Josef, the ox, the donkey, the angels, the shepherds and the Magi are depicted, often the scene includes also the flock of the shepherds, other farm animals, the camels of the Magi, the soldiers of Herod (with their swords drawn!), villagers, dancing children, hunters, washerwomen, houses, temples, and scenery such as mountains, lakes and streams. Modern belén figures can be seen sweeping floors, kneading bread, or even shoeing horses!
You can see Christmas cribs just about anywhere in Seville during the Christmas holidays.
Look for the signs saying ´Belén´ or just keep your eyes open for lines of parents with their children; they are almost certain to be waiting to see a crib! There are numerous belenes set up inside the churches, and by the various hermandades (´Brotherhoods´ - the same guys that are walking in the processions during the Holy Week). Also, you want to pay attention to the store fronts, especially those from the bakeries.
The one at the end of Calle Sierpes is famous for its belén made out of chocolate!
A short selection: the most prominent nativity scenes are at the City Hall (Plaza Nueva), the bank Cajasol (Plaza San Francisco) and at the Cathedral. Also very nice are the Belén Napolitano (Iglesia Santo Ángel, c/ Rioja), the Belén de la Solidaridad (Convento de Santa Rosalía, c/ Cardenal Spínola), the Belén del Círculo Mercantil e Industrial (c/Sierpes) and the Belén Canario (Hogar Canario, c/ Alfonso XII). Most will run until about January 5th.
For a more complete list of the larger nativity scenes, opening hours, etc., click here.