An expat Christmas in Madrid

After writing a post about what to expect on New Years Eve in Madrid, I thought it would also be nice to do a post on what an expat Christmas in Madrid is like.

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The best thing for me about Christmas in Madrid is undoubtedly the decorations.

Apparently these have been reduced considerably since the ‘crisis’, but they’re still at least 10x better than those we have in Auckland.

There are beautiful giant christmas trees and pretty lights in each of the central city barrios and several pop-up Christmas markets too.

Admiring them on a nightly stroll is just lovely… although can be a slow process as the entire population of Madrid likes to do this too.

Word to the wise – go on a weeknight and not the weekend.


But its not just people admiring the sparkly lights that clutter up central Madrid at Christmas time.

It’s all the superstitious people that believe they will win the famous Christmas lottery, if only they buy their tickets from certain shops in the centre.

These people (and there’s a lot of them) will wait for an hour in a line at least 100 people deep, in order to buy a ticket from these ‘lucky’ shops – despite multiple other vendors almost everywhere in the city.

It is mental.

They even have security guards for the lotto shop lines, to stop people cutting in. It’s that serious.


Whats so good about these lotto tickets?

Well I don’t really know.

The top prize is 4,000,000€ – yes, this is a lot of money. But to win this much, you actually have to buy 10 tickets all with the same number. Yes 10. And how much do they cost? 20€ each. So in order to win the grand prize you first need to drop 200€ on tickets – and then of course pray that your numbers come up.

Seems a little ridiculous to me.

I’m sure you can win just as much in New Zealand with a normal $11 powerball ticket.

(Of course I still bought a ticket anyway… just incase)

Anyway moving on, Christmas Markets!


There’s Christmas markets all over the city, but the most popular are those in Plaza Mayor. Here you’ll find everything you need to make your own nativity scene including moss to set your figurines up on.

Seriously there is so much moss for sale.

At night the plaza is lit up with hundreds of lanterns, which look really pretty.

As well as moss, there’s lots of food, churros with chocolate and bocadillos de calamares (deep-fried calamari in a bun) are popular choices.

Although these are not the typical Christmas treats.

Popular Christmas treats include turron (like nougat) and on Spain’s second-Christmas (more on this soon) they eat a traditional cake, Roscon de Reyes.


The Roscon de Reyes is pretty cool, as while it lacks flavour much like an English christmas pudding, you get to play a little game with it.

Somewhere in the cake a baby Jesus is hidden. Whoever gets the slice with the baby Jesus in it, is blessed – it’s a Christmas miracle!

And there’s no raisins, so really we all win.

But yes, you read right. Spain get two Christmases.

Well actually, they have Christmas and then Three Kings Day in January which sounds like Christmas to me, as they get more presents and eat more food.

Lucky right?

However it does mean that ‘Boxing Day Sales’ don’t exist here, and you have to wait until about January 7th for the famous Rebajas (sales) – luckily they’re worth it, with massive discounts at almost every store.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.45.45 AMSo that’s my take on Christmas in Madrid. It’s all a bit of tongue and cheek really, Christmas is a great time to be in Madrid, though of course its busy, like anywhere at this time. Do you have anything else to add?



  1. I need to visit Madrid! The lights look stunning (and so much better than Auckland!) and how crazy is that lottery, I’m still waiting to win the £130 euro million jackpot but I wouldn’t stand outside for an hour to buy a ticket! xx

  2. That’s very interesting, in the past two years since I’ve been travelling I spent Christmas in different part of the world, one being Taiwan and that was quite interesting and very different from a traditional Italian Christmas. This year I’ll be spending it with family and friends back home again, cannot wait 🙂

  3. Love this post! So much info! The lottery is SO silly. I don’t think I will ever understand it. Even the lines that everyone waits in give me hives ahah I also have yet to admire the lights this year! I think I will take your advice and go tomorrow night when it will hopefully be less crowded! :Dx

  4. Very interesting account of the holidays! (And I loooove ‘holidays around the world’ type posts)
    That is absolutely crazy how big a deal the lottery is there– amazing! And I agree, way too expensive!!
    The Christmas food in Spain that you describe sounds so delicious too. I never would’ve thought Spain as a Christmas destination but it looks really lovely.

  5. Holy Moly! We saw those huuuuuge lines for the Lotto in Madrid as well and I had no idea people were spending THAT much on tickets. Truly insane! Nice to see how they celebrate Christmas, the baby jesus in the cake is a bit cute 🙂

  6. It’s great to see Christmas markets that aren’t in the usual places (Germany, UK, Austria etc) I love all of the decorations and celebrations. Great photos!

  7. The two Christmases initially got me really excited – I was thinking, ‘double the presents’ – but I learned, much to my disappointment, that the Spaniards don’t really give presents on xmas eve. Instead, they wait for the Three Kings Day. Sigh…

  8. This was a lovely post! I’m from Madrid and I do agree our decorations are quite lovely even though there were many more when I was little, but oh well, we can still enjoy the mahoosive trees hahahaha
    I agree with you on the lottery though…. Doña Manolita is quite famous because a lot of big prizes are won there but it is horrible to go there and watch all the people waiting. The security thing kills me, really and sometimes it’s impossible to go into the nearer shops. They’ve open a new Lush store and it’s a pain to go now. I go to Fuencarral instead just so that I don’t have to deal with all that.
    Even though we have celebrated Christmas since forever, we have incorporated Santa Claus recently but you know us, we have to have double fun so The Three Kings are still in order LOL I prefer that we give the bigger presents now on Christmas day, especially if there are kids in the family because they can enjoy them a bit more. If they get the present the 6th of January they have to go to school the 8th so there is not a lot of time to play around =)

  9. The decorations look fantastic.Hopefully you wouldn’t bite into Jesus when you eat the cake.Would live to know what a traditional Xmas dinner consists of.

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