The arrival of Christmas means celebration and joy to so many people! This feeling generates, particularly in kids, the apparition of traditional characters such as Santa or Father Christmas. But, who delivers presents to the Spanish-speaking children? Let’s discover these 7 Hispanic Christmas Characters!
#1. Tió de Nadal: The sweet Christmas log
This is a very particular tradition from Catalunya, Aragon and Andorra. The protagonist is Tió de Nadal, a wooden log that gets decorated and looked after during Advent. Children have the duty of feeding him and keeping him warm, as it if was a pet! Then, on Christmas Eve, children hit him with sticks while singing a song. The objective is that Tió de Nadal poops presents and sweets!
#2. Olentzero: The Basque Santa
Olentzero is a character from the Basque Christmas tradition. Similar to Santa, Olentzero is a mythological coalminer that arrives in town at night on the 24th of December to drop off presents for children.
The rest of the year, this good-natured man lives secluded in the mountains, where he spends the time creating vegetal coal until the next winter.
#3. Los Reyes Magos: The most loved kings
The Three Wise Men or, as we know them in Spanish, los Reyes Magos, are one of the most well-known Christmas characters.
The Gospel of Matthew speaks of Magi, or wise men, who followed a star from the East to Bethlehem in search of a newborn king. There they found baby Jesus, and offered him gold, frankincense and myrrh. The three wise men are called Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar, and they are also the ones in charge of bringing presents to Spanish kids on the 6th of January.
#4. La Vieja Belén: A legendary Dominican figure
La Vieja Belén (in English, “The Old Belén”) is a legendary figure that is exclusive to the Dominican Republic. It’s said that she arrives one week after the Three Wise Men (6th of January), bringing humble, little presents to poor children only.
Even though her origin is uncertain, the legend of la Vieja Belén still persists in the memory of many Dominicans.
#5. El Apapalpador: A Galician tradition
El Apalpador, also known as Pandigueiro or Apalpa Barrigas, is a Christmas character from Galicia, located in the northwest of Spain.
He is a big man with a long, ginger beard that spends his life in the mountains. El Apalpador arrives in town twice during Christmas: on the 24th and 31st of December. What an honour!
When the kids are sleeping, he gently touches their bellies to check if they have been eating properly during that year! Then, he leaves chestnuts or a little present.
#6. Anjanas: The Northern fairies
Anjanas are fairy creatures from Cantabria. Some say they are heavenly beings sent by God do good deeds. Others indicate that they are spirits of trees who take care of the forests.
In any case, Anjanas come to villages during the night of the 5th of January to bring children lots of toys and gifts. However, this only happens every four years, generally to poor families, and still occurs annually in some areas of Cantabria.
#7. El Angulero: The kindest fisherman
In this case, el Angulero is a relatively new character. He’s from Asturias, and he arosed as a regional alternative to Santa.
Even though he is based on the figure of el Olentzero, el Angulero spends his time fishing elvers in the sea. His catch increases considerably every 24th of December, which allows him to bring presents to the youngest children.