10 words and phrases you must know to survive Christmas in Spain

In2Spanish » 10 words and phrases you must know to survive Christmas in Spain

It is here… the best time of the year has come! Yes, of course I am talking about Christmas!

The Spanish streets are already filled with lights, Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and even people wearing those ridiculous hats buying presents and food. If you are also in Madrid, you have definitely walked in front of Cortylandia and felt like a little kid, right? What are they saying though? How am I going to get by if I don’t understand anything? Don’t worry because that is where we come in. Here is the ultimate guide to understanding what you hear around you.

1. ¡Feliz Navidad! - Yes, that’s right, like the ‘villancico’ (look at point 5) says. It is the first Spanish phrase that you heard and you didn’t even know what it meant, and now you must use it daily because here in Spain we start saying it since the first of December, specially to the people whom you won’t see again. It is used to get through the cold and darkness of the winter, I am sure when you’ll say it you will feel happier. Try it!

2. ¡Feliz año nuevo! - This one is a little different because you can only say it after January 1st. If not, it brings bad luck! So be careful. If you want to use it before January, you can always say: “Feliz salida y entrada de año”.

3. ¡Felices fiestas! - In order to not complicate things and having to think what the date is or what to say exactly, you can use this expression that encompasses all of the holidays and can be said at any moment. And it is also the only ‘non-religious’ option for these holidays.

4. Turrón, polvorón, y mazapán - They are the traditional sweets for this time, they can’t be missed in any house and are not suitable for any kind of dieting. But of course, they will give you all the energy you will need to assist all of the events this season. Try every flavour! We have almond, chocolate, hazelnut… Don’t leave anything behind.

5. Los villancicos - They are Christmas carols, that everyone knows and are part of the popular culture. If you want to be a real Spaniard, we recommend you learn Campana sobre campana (that has easy lyrics and is very repetitive) or Los peces en el río (that doesn’t make much sense but is essential).

6. ¡Chin-Chin! - When we celebrate Christmas, we raise our cava glasses and toast many times. Now for Christmas, then for everyone’s well being, now for our newborn cousin, for our times together… We always have to toast! And every time we do it, we say “chinchin” and everyone knows they must raise their glass and drink to celebrate the holidays once more. 

7. Amigo invisible - Since this is the season of gifts and get togethers, sometimes it is difficult for our imagination and our budget to be at the same level. This is why we celebrate ‘el amigo invisible’ which consists in every member of the group getting a gift for another but… it is a surprise! The gift giver is anonymous and the only way to know is by guessing who it is. 

8. ¿Has sido bueno? ¡Qué te traigan muchas cosas los Reyes! This one is dedicated to the little ones. In Spain, the day in which we exchange gifts is January 6th, when the ‘Reyes Magos’ come, but only if the children have been good all year. If you haven’t behave, they will bring coal.

9. ¡Este año te toca el Gordo! If you’ve heard this before, you have probably been confused because you won’t be able to guess what is means. On December 22nd, the Christmas Draw of the National Lottery takes place, and the price is commonly known as “el Gordo de Navidad”. All Spaniards hope to win but if not, it is ok because like we always say after the draw: “¡Lo que importa es tener salud!” (what matters is our health). Let’s see if I win this year!

10. It may be possible that there are way more expressions, but if you have any doubts, we have this song. Although it isn’t a carol, it is Christmas himn, and accommodates everything that happens during New Year’s Eve. I hope you understand it all and “que no te atragantes con las uvas”.

If you still have problems… ¡Get another glass of champagne and toast for the New Year! ¡Chin-Chin!

Author: Anaí García Egido