Christmas Basque Traditions

So a while ago inesbc2001 suggested us doing a post about Christmas traditions in Euskal Herria and since we consider it a brilliant idea, there you go. Some of them are celebrated also outside Euskal Herria, but anyway, here are our Holiday traditions ^_^.

Saint Thomas’ Fair:
On December 21st, Saint Thomas’ Day, there’s a really big fair in almost every Basque city and village. It’s not a tradition itself, but that day is when the Holidays actually begin for Basque people. Natural products from local farmers are sold in the fair and many people wear the traditional Basque costume. It’s mandatory to eat talo and to drink txakoli.

In Iparralde there are also Marchés de Noël, beautiful stands where you can find Christmas ornaments, handmade gifts and vin chaud, a mix of hot red wine, lemon and orange zest, and cinnamon.

Christmas Eve:
Olentzero’s parade: On Christmas Eve, at around 6-7PM, thousands of children (and parents) take the streets to attend the parade of Olentzero and wife Mari Domingi. It’s a truly beautiful parade children adore, with music, floats, magic shows, acrobats, etc.

Ogi Salutadore. It’s a tradition preserved only in certain regions of Bizkaia: before Christmas Eve’s dinner, the house owner or the person being the chair, takes the bread and blesses and kisses it. Then, using a knife, cuts a piece of one of the ends. This piece is kept under the tablecloth during supper and, after it, it’s put in a box and then stored in a closet. It’s believed that this piece of bread never rusts and has some special powers: protects from lightnings, chases storms away, heals the dogs with rabies, etc. This small piece of bread must be renewed every year.

The Yule Log. In some places a log was collected from the forest in autumn and hauled home by oxen. On Christmas Eve it was set on fire. The remaining ashes after combustion had a magical value, and were used to heal family members and their animals. This log has several names in Basque: Olentzero-enborra, Onontzaro-enborra, Gabon-subila, Gabon-mukurra, Suklaro-Egurra …

New Year’s Eve:

Grapes for the New Year: No New Year’s Eve is a real New Year’s Eve if people don’t eat the mandatory 12 grapes! Yes, at midnight, with each stroke of the clock one grape must be eaten and a wish must be silently made. 12 strokes, 12 grapes, 12 wishes, Happy New Year!!! After kissing and hugging everyone - and phoning those who are far away - people go out partying to the (in)famous “cotillones”, that is, confetti & champagne-filled parties held in clubs or hotels.

Water’s rebirth. Although a long time ago this tradition was more widespread, it has just survived in the Navarre region of Burunda. Water has a very important role in this rite. At twelve o'clock on New Year’s Eve, the young villagers filled several containers with spring water. It is believed that while the bells are striking midnight all the waters of the world (and the rest of nature) are reborn. If water is drunk in that precise moment, that person will be protected.

Purifying fire.
This rite is practiced in some places of Araba and Nafarroa. In some little villages of these provinces, the kids use an old bottle or something alike to create a kind of doll. Then, they take it from place to place through the streets of the village, while reciting some old phrases in Basque. Finally, the doll is set on fire. It’s believed that with this rite the year gone is turned to ashes.

January 5th-6th

Here, children are still on holiday after New Year’s Day until January 7th. Why, you ask? Because the Three Wise Men are coming, that’s why! And they’re coming with presents!! In Euskal Herria most children recieve their gifts on Christmas Day, after Olentzero’s visit, but some people wait for the Three Wise Men to come. In many cases, some presents are given on Christmas Day, and some others on January 6th.

Three Wise Men’s parade:  Just as Olentzero, the Three Wise Men parade through the streets of every town and city giving out candies while floats pass and their entourage march. Here in Euskal Herria children are very lucky, as they have 2 parades (Olentzero & the Three Wise Men) every year ^_^.

Roscón de Reyes / Galette des Rois
: As we told you HERE, in the morning of January 6th, almost every family has roscón de reyes (in Hegoalde) and galette des rois (in Iparralde) for breakfast. Some sweet deliciousness to finish a week of really plentiful meals!!

Anyone wants to celebrate the Holiday season à la Basque?? ^_^

Euskal Herria has it all (Part II)

(Part I can be found HERE)

Prehistoric monuments…

… and Roman mosaics.

Little shrines from the Dark Ages…

… and big medieval castles.

Art nouveau buildings…

… and innovative architecture.

Romantic little hotels…

… and avant-garde ones.

When will you come visit? ^_~


This probably won’t be in the news, but yesterday, tens of thousands of Basque people gathered together in the capital cities (Bilbo, Donostia, Gasteiz, Baiona and Iruña) to peaceful and happily claim for our right to vote whether we want independence or not.

This movement is not related to any political party and it was organised by the volunteers of the association Gure Esku Dago (”It’s in our hands”). Those colourful pieces of cloth you see were decorated and sewed together by the inhabitants of almost every Basque village. Last year Gure Esku Dago organised a human chain that connected Durango and Iruña (123 kms).

Superb atmosphere and gorgeus day!