Celebrating Old and New Holiday Traditions While Studying in Spain

Celebrating Old and New Holiday Traditions While Studying in Spain

Being abroad in Spain during the holidays has been a really good thing. Holiday season always brings family together, which has made me bond even more with my host family and with all of the cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles. I feel like I’m so much a part of this family that the different traditions and changes simply feel like normal everyday life. Of course, I think about my family at home, and of course I miss them. But, I’m here to immerse myself in this culture, learn their way of life, and experience everything I can while studying abroad.

The first month or two had moments of sadness. But, I’ve now fully adapted and I feel so at home that I’m just living a normal life. There will still be sad days, but that’s just part of life. Being with my wonderful host family makes any small hard moment seem so insignificant.

My host family is playing Secret Santa (Amigo Invisible). I got my host sister… Shh don’t tell!! Here in Spain, the activity differs from family to family. But, in my host family we do gifts for everyone in January for Three Kings Day, and on Christmas only for your secret Santa.

The Christmas spirit is definitely here! The streets have big snowflakes, swirling lights, and a huge Christmas tree of lights in the center.

It’s so cool to see the differences and similarities. All of my friends here have been asking me to tell them all about Christmas in the States, and they are so surprised when I describe something that is different from the movies.

On Christmas Eve or Noche Buena, there is going to be a huge party with my host sister and all of our friends in the local that goes until around 6am.

On Nochevieja, New Years Eve, there is also a huge party that goes even later. There is a tradition that at 12am we have to eat 12 grapes. One for each month. I’ve been warned to be careful because apparently people have choked on the grapes due to eating them so fast…

I am so excited to be here in Spain and experience the holidays in a different way than I am used to. My host family has never celebrated Hanukkah, which I do at home, so we are going to exchange some of our holiday traditions. I’ll show them about the menorah and lighting the candles each night. I can’t wait to see what they are going to show me!

Living here in Spain feels so totally normal now, and the people I have met have become so significant to me that it’s crazy to even think that three months ago I didn’t even know them. This holiday season is one I will remember forever. Felices fiestas!


Louise Plever is 15 years old and lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Her goal during her study abroad program in Spain is “to become fluent in Spanish and make friends that will last a lifetime.” Follow Louise’s adventure in Spain on her blog post updates throughout the year.

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