Tag Archives: spanish culture

Christmas traditions in Spain

Whether you are going to spend the winter holidays in Spain this year, you want to incorporate some Spanish Christmas traditions this year, or you simply want to learn some more about Spanish traditions, you have reached the right post. There are many different traditions related to the beloved holiday. However, I will only mention a few of the most important ones.

  1. Lotería de Navidad

This is probably the craziest Christmas tradition in Spain, not in terms of how weird the tradition is, but in terms of the craze around it. Ever since the beginning of the year, people from all around Spain, buy tickets for la Lotería de Navidad, or the Christmas Lottery. They do this in the hope of winning the grand prize, or the so called “el Gordo”, which would translate into the fatty, because the prize is in fa big.

The unofficial start of Christmas holidays in Spain is on December 22nd. Yes, you have guessed right. This is when people start camping in front of the Tv, hoping to hear the lucky numbers that they have chosen in order to win “el Gordo” . On this day, children from San Ildefonso School sing both the numbers and prizes of the beloved Christmas Lottery. This is exactly when you know that the holiday spirit has reached the country.

  1. Día de los Santos Inocentes

While not exactly related to Christmas, but a few days after, el Día de los Santos Inocentes or the Day of the Innocent Saints, is celebrated on the 28th of December. This holiday was originally used to commemorate the young victims of a massacre, which was order by Herodes. He was hoping to eliminate a newborn that supposed to be the “future king of the Jews”, which was a threat to his power.

Despite the sombre background that this holiday has, Spaniards have given it a funny spin. The Day of the Innocent Saints is the Spanish equivalent of, April Fool’s Day. It is the day when the Spanish people prank each other. You should be careful. You either prank someone or you risk being pranked.

  1. Waiting for the Three Kings

The Three Kings or los Reyes Magos visit the Spanish people on the 6th of January. The day before, people rush to the bakery in order to get a traditional Roscón de Reyes, which is a cake shaped like a ring. This delicacy is eaten for breakfast on the 6th.

This holiday is anxiously expected by everyone in Spain from the little ones to adults. In town, you can see parades, where the three kings throw candy to the children. Then, they go to sleep, to find out the gifts prepared for them the following morning.

These are three of the most striking Spanish winter traditions. I hope that you will add at least some aspects in your own celebrations.

Regarding the content writing, knowing this and many other traditions is mandatory if you want to speak about things that matter for the audience just before they will become important through the year.

Are e-books killing paperback editions?

We are witnessing more and more readers nowadays who are shifting towards electronic devices. Likewise, real bookshops are becoming replaced by online digital libraries. Is this an ongoing process where the software takes place over the good old book? Or maybe we shall have more libraries and shelves prettily arranged again?

In any case, there seem to be advantages and disadvantage of both ways.

The spread of digital technology has changed many habits making life easier for the consumers. Booklovers are among those who have experienced the great impact of the digital era.

Once we were used to enjoying the fun of strolling through bookstores to find the favoured title and would spend hours going over the covers, turning the pages, looking for the publishers and ultimately affording only a few editions to pay for paperback or even more for a hardcover. Of course, if we are lucky, we may find the book we are looking for as a used copy which is less expensive.

Also, lending and borrowing is always a convenient way for printed books, not to speak of the leisure of spending the day in a library, surrounded by the tranquility of the area.

Most of all, many of us are proud showing visitors to our homes the sacred place where we keep the colourful front pages with some amazing titles. In particular if we are the owners of some old books in their first edition.

On the other hand, when it comes to digital versions we have the advantage of carrying around thousands of pages on one device. Kindles have become frequently seen in almost every place, from stations to cafes.

We do not spend much time going to get a book, we find it more comfortable to just sit on the computer and order it in a few minutes. There is also an access to a lot of other information this way as we are able to see recommended links with references as well as the option of having other media in an e-book like sounds or videos. For example, if you read a scientific book and you come up with a new word, you may have a hyperlink directing you to a dictionary.

Moreover, you can easily search a passage by using various functions digital editions offer. One of them is the `put my finger` which helps you to scroll over the text and flip back to a certain place.

Above all, there are a number of possibilities to get a virtual version of a book as there are many websites offering free download of books in PDF formats. This may refer to copyright protection and the allowance of literary works. Copyright may have a limited time of duration and the author may agree to give permission their book to enter the public domain. When this happens the book is available on the Internet and can be downloaded.

No matter which opportunity people choose, we can say as long as they read it does not matter how they do it. Though the question is how much we really absorb of what we have read. It has been a long enough time to sum up the results and bring some conclusions. Until then, it is a choice of preference whether we use the paper or an e-reader.

In any case, this is an interesting topic to talk about in a Spanish conversation class.

What is that bull seen on Spanish roadsides?

“Fighting bull sign flickr photo shared by Steve Slater (used to be Wildlife Encounters) under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Many tourists may assume the bull is related in some way linked to the bull fights that Spain is so well-known for.  However, there is a long and interesting history associated with these gargantuan, artistic statues.

How it all began…

The bull is officially the “Bull of Osborne” or “El Toro de Osborne”.  The Osborne Group was originally a wine vineyard, but also produces brandy and runs a chain of restaurants and hotels.  It is one of the older family businesses in Spain, beginning in 1772.  Over the years, the company has grown and become part of the culture of Spain, largely thanks to unexpected results from a publicity campaign that began in 1956.  The company hired a publicity agency called “Azor”.  The director and artist, Manolo Prieto, created the plans for the famous bull to adorn highways throughout Spain.

The bull went through several transformations over the years, growing from 4 meters tall to a whopping 14 meters tall.  The final roadside billboard that has remained the same since 1961 is made of metal and weighs an impressive 4,000 kilos.  It is anchored into the ground by scaffolding that stands behind the bull.


In 1988, changes in Spain’s highway laws ordered that all publicity be removed from state roadsides.  However, this law nearly caused a revolution.  Artists, cultural groups, municipal governments and the community at large banded together to request that the government allow the famous Bulls of Osborne to remain standing.  This large group of supporters insisted that the bulls were no longer simple advertising, but an integral part of the culture itself.  By 1997, a final decision had been made.  The Bulls of Osborne were allowed to remain on the highways in interest of the aesthetic and cultural attributes they contribute to the country.

The Osborne Bull Today

Although many consider it to be a symbol of Spain itself, it is still the intellectual property of the Osborne Group.  It is the company’s official logo.  Recent court rulings have determined that the it’s illegal to copy or reproduce the logo without authorization.

Currently there are around 90 large bull billboards distributed across the country.  However, the Bull of Osborne is also frequently seen on bumper stickers, keyrings, hats, t-shirts and other souvenir items.   The Osborne Group has made these items available, encouraging the spread of this popular symbol.

Despite the fact that the bull is widely accepted and appreciated in Spain, a small number of groups have vandalized the bulls to call attention to their causes.  One group painted the bull located in Mallorca with the colors of the gay flag.  In another instance, a bull in Galicia was painted orange in rejection of the symbol.

Nevertheless, the symbol is well-known on an international level and quite popular.  If you are going to visit Spain, you’re sure to see the Bull of Osborne somewhere, whether on the roadside or on a bumper.  When you do, now you’ll know the story.

3 Good Movies to practice Spanish

If you’re looking for some good Spanish movies to watch, you won’t be disappointed with the three that we are going to share with you. Watch them on a three-day weekend, one for each night, and see what you think. Romantic comedy, adventure, drama, history, and mystery are what you have in store if you get a chance to check out these films. Read on for the titles and full details.

Ocho Apellidos Vascos (Eight Basque Surnames, or “Spanish Affair”) is a 2014 Spanish romantic comedy in which Rafa, a young Andalusian man, has to do what he has never done: leave his beautiful Seville hometown, his so-called finery, his hair gel, his accent, and even his favorite Spanish soccer club (the Real Betis), to get the Basque girl that he loves. Her opposition is what sparks his interest – all the other women in his life have been too easy to get close to. She presents a challenge and he claims that he can bring her back to his native southern Spain in as little as three days. He is surprised when he finds that he must cross the cultural divide between his original homeland and her northern country! He quickly realizes that it will take a lot more to conquer her love, so he pretends to be Basque to get past her resistance. He goes so far to even adopt the first name Antxon and, off the top of his head, eight Basque last names (an act which lends to the title of the film!): Arguiñano, Igartiburu, Erentxun, Gabilondo, Urdangarín, Otegi, Zubizarreta, and Clemente. The comedic action runs throughout the movie (with accents, politics, memes, and stereotypes) till the very end – if you want to get the most out of the movie, familiarize yourself with these ahead of time. This film is one of the highest grossing in Spanish Box Office history. The director, Emilio Martínez-Lázaro, simply gave the public what they wanted: laughter. Although it is more about how the Spanish view the Basque, it ultimately provides a message of uniting with others (no matter how different they are!) through love.

Perhaps it is another type of love that differentiates the previous movie and the next. Alatriste (or “Captain Alatriste: The Spanish Musketeer”) is a 2006 film set in 17th century Spain in which Diego Alatriste serves in the Eighty Years War for the King of his country. It is based on the writings of Arturo Pérez-Reverte, that is, Las aventuras del Capitán Alatriste (The Adventures of Captain Alatriste); it artistically combines elements from each of the five books of the series it is inspired from. There is blood, sweat, and tears, along with love, loyalty, and intrigue. Torn clothes and swordfights, scars and skin, this movie depicts the rawness and vulnerability of living the troubled life of a soldier turned mercenary. For the 21st Goya Awards, it was the winner of Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Supervision of Production. For the beautiful visuals that recreate the book’s atmosphere, there isn’t much that the director, Agustín Díaz Yanes, can be questioned on, except one: the length of the film. Be prepared to sit for a little more than two hours!

There are story characters who shouldn’t feel prepared to sit beyond what they should, but they do anyways and lose themselves for it. Hable Con Ella (Talk to Her) is a 2002 Spanish film that explores the way in which emotions can overpower one’s thoughts and actions. Two men find themselves facing the silence of the women for whom they’ve become drawn towards: Benigno Martín is a nurse obsessed with his beautiful comatose patient Alicia Roncero, a ballet student, while Marco Zuluaga is a traveling writer lost in the short entertwining story between him and Lydia González – a female bullfighter whose attraction and fear pull at him, even after she becomes gored and comatose. They first meet at the private clinic in which the comatose women are being cared for, and become friends. There is beauty and sadness in the strange intimacy of the characters, and yet it gives off a mysterious realism in the coincidences and encounters at the beginning and end of the film. Pedro Almodóvar’s directing will pull you in to the story; he will have you contemplating the lives of others and the subjectiveness of love.

Listening Spanish is always a good practice. If you want to get some conversation with a Spanish native speaker, do not hesitate to ask about my classes.

What to do in Spain in autumn: Visit Vall d’Aran

20120823183 Vall d’Aran, vista des de Canejanflickr photo shared by Xavier E Traité under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

From time to time I like to talk about Spanish culture here. This is something I also do when practicing a Spanish conversation with a student, and helps them to undestand the language.

When somebody talks about Spain, even in autumn, what usually comes to mind is the warm south, big sun, you sitting on a beach, drinking a cocktail and overlooking Morocco. Even though tempting, that is just too much of a cliché. Instead, I will make you dream about the far north-east, abundant hanging valleys, in the corner of the Pyrenees, the Vall d’Aran. Hiking, good food, cultural activities, adventures and beautiful villages sounds so good that it would be a pity for this place to only be read about, and not visited. And to do so, I will take you to a virtual journey firstly explaining a bit of history and then moving on to food to satisfy your appetite, so that you can be prepared for a further mountain exploration and finally end your journey in a beautiful village listening.

Being at the north-western tip of Catalonia, and the headwater valley of the river Garonne before its final flow into the Atlantic in Bordeaux, France, makes its history and culture different than any other valleys in Spain. Its culture has clear Occitanian roots, which makes Arenese the official language of the valley, in spite of Spanish and Catalonian. Archeologists in Naut Aran have found the first signs of life to be during the Bronze Age. Further remains in Arties, Les and Tredos date back from Roman times. Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods can as well be testified by the architecture and many churches around. Firstly being a part of Catalonia, Vall d’Aran faced tense relations with France which ended in invasion and conquest by the French troops in 1283. However, after James II of Catalonia and Aragon secured an appointment that brought Vall d’Aran back to Catalonia in 1313. In the same year, James II implemented important tax exemptions. The valley was divided into six parts, each one having its own councilor, all together forming the Conselh Generau, existing until today.

Feeling hungry after a history lesson? Well, I have something for your longing appetite. The Aranese cuisine has its roots from garden hunting and fishing. Our appetizer will be the traditional soup Olha Aranesa, a mixture of beef, chicken, pork and duck with various herbs and vegetables. Next, we go with a Duck Confit served with a fruit jam. To end, crêpes with wild berries as a dessert. What about a cup of coffee and then moving on to hiking?

As Vall d’Aran is a river of mountains, most of them higher than 2000m above sea level, there are numerous breath-taking hikes. One is the famous Royal Path, or Camin Reiau, 150 km long, historically used as a way of communication between villages intertwined in the valley. In addition, it was used by the Roman to build the now-existing routes. The National Park Aigues Tortes as well offers many toured hikes through villages and the lakes of Saboredo and Colomers. Scattered around the mountains, Vall d’Aran has 33 villages built in wood, slate and stones, and witnessing towers and steeples.

Can you just imagine the staggering view of an alpine snowy valley rich with rivers, lakes and mountains around? Paradise for the soul and seasoning for your imagination. If you want to see autumn as a second spring, where every leaf is a flower, do not even finish reading this sentence- pack yourself and do not forget to take your winter clothes!

3 authors to practice Spanish – Advanced level

Maybe you are looking for ways to hone your Spanish language skills. If that is your case, my first recommendation is you to try my Spanish language class by Skype, but if you are looking for some reading and your level is advanced, let me talk to you about one very Spanish way of writing:

Magical Realism in Spanish

The letters on the screen pulsate and flicker, as if they are about to tumble onto the keyboard below. Black and white, black and white, what color will it end on? Was it just the computer? Or is it just easy to get lost between the spaces? The screen vibrates with electricity and for some reason the keyboard trembles as two words are typed out: realismo mágico.

Known as magical realism in English, it is a genre that can best be described as the literary equivalent of HDTV (or High Definition Television). It brings out the mysterious and hyper-realistic textual imagery of the mundane in such a way as to make it seem fantastic.

Three well-known Spanish language authors known for such an artistic endeavor are Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, and Carlos Fuentes. If you are looking to practice your Spanish reading comprehension, they are a good choice that will not only help you expand your vocabulary but will also help you see things in an interesting light.

Isabel Allende is a Chilean-American author who first received literary acclaim with the 1982 debut of her book La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits). The need for love and liberty is at the axis of the wheel upon which the actions of the characters revolve. The Del Valle and the Trueba families offer two political views of the world – the first is progressive and the latter is conservative. The women are clairvoyants and the men live anguished lives among them. There is love and revenge, conspiracy and terror.

Gabriel García Márquez was a Colombian author whose greatest work Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) tells the Liberal political story of Colombia’s historical evolution from a colonial lifestyle to that of trains, industrialism, and a military massacre. Seven generations of turmoil are explored and at the end one is left asking if any of it could have been prevented if the men of the family had been able to decipher and believe in the mystical ability to see beyond their immediate lives. You may learn more about Márquez on the Nobel Prize page dedicated to this author.

Carlos Fuentes was a Mexican author whose best work was perhaps the book La muerte de Artemio Cruz (The Death of Artemio Cruz). It is a little dark in that it is told from the deathbed of Artemio, who remembers his life as a corrupt jack of many trades. He is the embodiment of the Mexican Revolution, with an agonizing death surrounding his thoughts on religion, scandals, and his attachments to sensuousness all cutting out pieces of him. What is to be expected of a soldier or a politician, a journalist or a tycoon, or even a lover, especially if corrupt – he was all of those and more!

Do you need a review of a book in Spanish?

I can write it for you. Actually, I have a blog dedicated to book reviews in Spanish where you can see examples of my writing. Actually, I am a reading animal and love tou keep track about what I have read before.

Contact me if you think that I can help you!


Finding the Words in your Non-native Tongue

Individuals learning to write in Spanish may be surprised to find that the language does not translate directly to their native tongue. This is because languages have different sentence structures, phonetic features, and word connotations. Although the native language serves as an excellent source of support, learners of Spanish must remember that trying to translate directly from English may result in frustration due to differences between the languages, including the availability of equivalent word choices.

Since there are words in English that do not exist in Spanish (and the opposite is true as well), the language learner must learn to navigate around ideas much differently than he or she is used to navigating in the native language. This is one of the areas of second language speaking that warrants the need to avoid direct translation. Specifically, many cultural terms, such as slang words or idiomatic expressions, will not translate to any other language. Furthermore, even when there are direct translations from English to Spanish, there may be differences between the nuances of the translations (meaning that the word in one language may have a ‘stronger’ or more severe meaning in the other language).

While there are some English words that do not translate into Spanish, there are also Spanish words that do not exist in English, some of which could be incredibly useful to the English language! Many of these words are actually verb forms that help the speaker communicate particular actions. For example, the verb ‘trasnochar’ means ‘to stay up late.’ While English speakers are able to describe this action, there is not a one-word translation that can be used to refer to the same concept in English. This is an excellent example of how a concept can exist in two language but not have a linguistic equivalent.

It is important to remember that one language is not superior to another based off of its availability of word choices. Language changes over time, with new words being added by different generations of speakers. The best advice for English speakers learning Spanish is to immerse themselves in the language and culture. Since language is cultural by nature, learners are more likely to acquire the nuances of words in the second language if they are immersed in a culture that speaks that language. This type of learning is definitely a process, so it is important to be patient and maintain a heightened level of awareness when trying to acquire a language.

Are you looking for Spanish lessons by Skype?

If you are looking for Spanish lessons by Skype do not hesitate in contact me for free and tell me what is your level and schedule availability. I will answer you back with my prices and an offer to do a test, so you can check if you like the class.

Having classes by Skype hace the advantage to speak with a native speaker without leaving your home. If you don’t have time to go class, or you just want a class focused in yourself instead of a group class, these classes are a great opportunity.

How to get to Gandia or any village in Valencia province by train

Travelling in Spain can be complex. As the summer is here I will take advantage of the Spanish culture section of this blog to help you all to get to Gandia from Madrid using a train.

Madrid has two main train stations: Chamartín and Atocha

First you need to know is that there are two main trains stations in Madrid. Chamartin is used to go north and Atocha to go south. To go to Valencia you need to go to Atocha.

If you arrive in one of the stations and you need to go to the other one, to take another train, you don’t need to use the underground. You can go from Chamartín to Atocha or viceversa using Cercanías.

So, if you arrive at Madrid by train, and need to go to the other train station check if your ticket has this code.

It is possible to change from Chamartin to Atocha or viceversa for free if your ticket has this code in the red circle

If you have the code you don’t need to pay the Cercanias ticket. You have to go to the machine where you usually buy the tickets, choose your destination (Atocha or Chamartín) and scan the QR in it. Doing so, it will give you the ticket for free.

Atocha – Valencia – Gandia

In July and August there are some trains that go from Atocha to Gandia. This is easy and do not need more explanations. But, it is possible that you can’t use one of these trains because of your schedule. If so, you need to go to Valencia.

In Valencia you will arrive at Joaquín Sorolla station and there is not any train from this station to the villages. So again you need to

Go from Joaquín Sorolla station to Valencia Nord station

It is very easy. You don’t need a taxi. When you arrive at Valencia, walk to the street and look at your right. There is a bus stop that is not looking to the road, but to a kind of intern path with a small roundabout. It is easy to find because many people with bags is going there, so you just need to follow the crowd.

This bus is free, you do not need to show any tickets, and it will take you to Valencia Nord.

From Valencia Nord to your destine

Now, you are in Valencia Nord. You will need to buy a Cercanías ticket. This time you have to pay for it. If your destine is Gandia, there are trains every 30 minutes.

This is the best way to move between the stations without spending a lot of money in taxis. Feel free to ask if you have any doubt.

Top 3 Current Spanish writers that you will enjoy

When thinking about Spanish writers almost every Spanish foreign speaker think about Cervantes. Though this could seem not politically correct, I have to say that there are some current writers that are much more interesting to read. Here you are a personal top 3 list of authors that are from Spain and write things that engage with the public:

Arturo Pérez Reverte

He has written the Capitan Alatriste series. He is one of the most famous Spanis writers right now because his books usually become best-sellers and because of his polemic opinion articles in magazines and newspapers.

Former war-journalist, this man plays a rol when appears in public, looking as someone little rude, patriotic and highbrow. I don’t like people that are not natural, but that is his way to sell more and it works well.

Three novels by Arturo Pérez Reverte: 1. El capitán Alatriste; 2. La carta esférica; 3. El Asedio.

Alberto Vázquez Figueroa

His novels are like movies. Highly entertaining, this man from Tenerife is one of my favourites. With more than 60 books, I enjoyed a lot the one titled Alí en el país de las maravillas.

This man has a great personality and fights against the fact that reading is an expensive hobby in Spain. Actually, he released one of his novels for free on the Internet.

Three novels by Alberto Vázquez Figueroa: 1 Coltan; 2 Manaos; 3 Tuareg.

Elvira Lindo

She is not the kind of author someone expects in a top 3, but my goal here is to give you something entertaining and the books by Elvira Lindo are great.

Manolito Gafotas is a book serie about a Spanish children in which you will learn a lot about Spanish life and laugh about it.

Maybe she is not as pretentious as a respected author should be, but this is another reason to read her books.

Do you have any favouriteSpanish author?



Spanish around the globe

Are you thinking about to create a Spanish version of your website? here a post that will help you to do so. Spanish is one of the most important languages in the world and also one of the most spoken ones. It is one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations. Spanish is a language from the romance languages family, alongside French, Italian, Portuguese, Occitan, Catalan, Romanian and others. The root of all these languages is the Indo-European languages family, an even more primitive group that was formed thanks to the immigration of people from the Indian Peninsula to Europe, and viceversa, between an estimated time of 3000 years, from 4000 BC to 1000 BC. The origin of Spanish itself takes us back to the 13th century, where the first written standard of this language was first developed, in Toledo, Spain. After that, Spanish has been spreading all over the world and its inhabitants, specially with the military interventions and invasions that Spain conducted to America, Africa and Asia, from the 15th to the 18th centuries, and after that the massive immigration of people from Spanish-speaking countries to another, such as United States and Europe countries.

According to Ethnologue[1], Spanish is currently positioned 2° in the ranking of languages by total number of speakers, with around 470 million speakers worldwide. These speakers are distributed in Europe, South America and Central America specially, where Spanish is the official language for almost every country in this areas (Except Europe). The most populated countries who are examples of the regions mentioned above are Mexico (117 million speakers), United States (around 52 million speakers), Colombia (47 million speakers), Spain (46 million speakers), Argentina (42 million speakers), Venezuela (29 million speakers), and many others, like Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala, Portugal, Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Italy. Also, Spanish is spoken in other continents and regions, like Asia and Africa. For example, Equatorial Guinea (almost 1 million speakers), Morocco (3 million speakers), and Western Sahara (22,000 speakers) are cases in Africa. In Asia, Spanish is spoken in the Philippines (more than 3 million speakers), Israel (175,000 speakers) and Turkey (13,000 speakers). There are also 447,000 persons who speak Spanish in Australia, and 47,000 in New Zealand, both countries located in Oceania.

There are different dialects and forms to speak Spanish; the Latin American Spanish, Spain Spanish, Mexican Spanish, African Spanish and other examples, each one with different words and unique uses and phrase structure (in some cases).

[1] A web-based publication that contains statistics for 7,106 languages and dialects.