Christmas in Spain: Who Brings the Presents?

Key words
modern Spain, Christmas holidays, fairy-tale characters, competing traditions, regional identity
Alexandr N. Kozhanovskii
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +7 (499) 954-93-43
32a, Leninskii ave., 119334, Moscow, Russian Federation
DSc, Leading Researcher, Center for European Studies, N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
Date of publication

The article is written in accordance with the research plan of the N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences.


This article deals with the theme of fairy-tale characters who bring gifts to children during the Christmas holidays in modern Spain. The author shows that images of fantastic creatures are not at all uniform within the country but comprise several variants that differ significantly and even compete with each other. At the level of Spain as a whole, we are talking about “native” Magic Kings and the “alien” Papa Noel; at the regional level — about local “Christmas grandfathers” personifying local cultural and historical identity, as opposed to the common Spanish models. The author describes the most famous of these characters (Catalan Tió de Nadal, Basque Olentzero, Galician Apalpador, Cantabrian Esteru, Asturian L’Anguleru, Leonese Old Woman from the Mountain); he compares the history and causes of their appearance as well as their “gift-giving” function; and, finally, he shows a sharp increase in their status and popularity in recent decades and notes that in almost all cases, supporters of a particular local “original” variant act within the framework of an algorithm that allows us to talk about an “invented tradition” (in the phrase of E. Hobsbawm).


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For citation

Kozhanovskii A. N. Christmas in Spain: Who Brings the Presents? Traditional Culture. 2022. Vol. 23. No. 3. Pp. 135–149. In Russian.