Nativity scenes, markets, decorations and gastronomy are all highlights of the capital of the Costa del Sol at this time of year
16.12.16 - 14:55 -
Last year, Málaga was chosen as the best city in Spain in which to spend Christmas, by users of the Antena 3 television website. The capital of the Costa del Sol received three times as many votes as Seville, which came second. Third was Madrid, but it was a long way behind the more than 60,000 votes which were given to Malaga.
The good weather, Christmas lights, culture and food are some of the city’s main attractions at this time of year, but as well as taking part in all the events which take place during the festive season, visitors can also enjoy the city’s spectacular lights or a walk beside the beach along the more than ten kilometres of seafront promenade.
Each year the city surprises visitors and residents alike with its Christmas decorations, especially the lights in Calle Larios, which are really spectacular and unrivalled anywhere in Spain. This year, to the tune of ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham!, a remarkable sound and light show takes place in Calle Larios at 6.30pm and 9pm every evening. These daily musical interludes also include ‘The Show Must Go On’ by Queen and Carmina Burana’s ‘O Fortuna’.
With regard to its Christmas lights, Calle Larios has an impressive tubular structure weighing 25,500 kilos which creates an archway of about 32,000 rows of micro-LEDs and 334 motifs to emulate the Malaga sky. There are stars of different sizes and moons, all lit up with music in the background. In total, more than one and a half million light bulbs have been used to create this display, and they can be enjoyed every evening until 6 January.
Also new this year are the 11 bubble-shaped arches in Calle Granada, with their 32 suspended star and moon motifs, similar to those in the Plaza de la Constitución. Meanwhile, the Plaza de la Merced has a garland of LED lamps and a total of 92 light arches have been installed in other streets in the historic city centre, all with different festive designs.
Due to the works on the Metro this year, it has not been possible to put the traditional luminous netting on the trees in the Alameda Principal, but four enormous 18- metre-high trees have been placed in the Plaza de la Constitución, the Plaza Marina, Molino Lario and Parque Huelin.
Markets and nativity scenes
Like other European cities, the streets of Malaga are home to traditional Christmas markets at this time of year. In the Soho district there is the Garage Market, with stalls selling art, craft items and antiques, among many other items.
As the name suggests, this market takes place inside an old garage and is pure London-style, so it is perfect to visit even when it is raining.
Very close to this market are the traditional stalls in the Paseo del Parque. Every year hundreds of people come here to buy figures for their nativity scenes, shepherds’ costumes, tambourines and typical Christmas confectionery. There are also artisan stalls with handmade necklaces, rings and earrings, among a variety of other items to suit all tastes.
The Muelle Uno, coinciding with its fifth anniversary, is hosting ‘Renativity’, a complete programme for all the family with a focus on recycling, sustainability and art. There are visits to Father Christmas, concerts and storytelling, and visitors can enjoy workshops on subjects such as how to decorate the Christmas tree with recycled items or how to make a snowman from old socks, among others. There are also theatre performances, puppets, traditional games, mega-constructions from cardboard boxes, classes in Bollywood, Lindy hop and many other activities for the family to enjoy.
With regard to the nativity scenes, every year Malaga holds competitions to find the best ones. You can follow a route round all 56 of them, and this is detailed in a useful guide which gives information about the ‘belenes’, as they are known, and a map showing where each one is located.
One of the most popular is the Municipal Nativity, in the Patio de Banderas. This scene is reinvented every year so that the figures and traditional scenes are seen from different perspectives. This year, as in 2015, there is a ‘black chamber’: during the day it gives an effect of darkness, so the scenes and light effects can be better appreciated.
The nativity scene in the Municipal Archive is also interesting. There are 14 life-sized figures in the style of the Valencian ‘ninots’, created by two artists’ workshops in Alicante and Valencia. They are made using the traditional techniques of the region: wood, cardboard and expanded polystyrene, painted by hand as if they were part of the famous ‘fallas’ of Valencia or the bonfires of San Juan.
Concerts, carol and folk songs
Christmas fills every corner of Malaga with magic. One of the reasons for this is the series of Christmas concerts which take place in the streets of the city. The historic city centre is the venue for most of these shows, which easily attract the attention of passersby. Violins, guitars and flutes are some of the instruments to be heard at the foot of the Alcazaba, in the Plaza de la Merced and in Calle Larios.
Malaga folklore also holds an important place at this time of year with one of the most interesting events, the ‘verdiales’. On 28 December every year the traditional ‘Fiesta Mayor de Verdiales’ takes place, coinciding with the Day of the Innocents, the Spanish version of April Fool’s Day in the UK. Members of the folk groups are usually given silly nicknames to mark the occasion.
This festival was conceived as a competition, and there is rivalry between the styles of Montes, Almogía and Comares. There is also a section for children’s folk groups.
Each ‘panda’, as the groups are known, has to have at least 14 members including the ‘alcalde’, the ‘abanderado’ and more than three dancers. They must all wear the traditional ‘uniform’ and a straw hat with coloured ribbons, mirrors, artificial flowers and beads.
This festival is a very local form of culture, and it continues to raise awareness of this part of the city’s heritage. Its fame has now spread far and wide, and it has become a cultural ambassador for the city in the rest of Spain and abroad.
Malaga has a rich gastronomic culture and it is especially enjoyable at Christmas, with the many traditional dishes and festive confectionery.
The nearby town of Antequera is famous for its artisan ‘mantecados’, so naturally these can be found all over Malaga city. Some of the best-known brands are La Antequerana, La Perla de Antequera and D.Sancho Melero, among others
Also very typical are the ‘roscos de vino’, which are made in Malaga with local wine.
The nuns in the city’s convents also set to work each year to produce the ‘yemas de huevo’, ‘pestiños’ and ‘polvorones’ for which they are famous.
However, the most traditional product is probably the cake known as ‘borrachuelo’. Many people make their own, but they can also be bought from bakeries. Filled with angel hair or sweet potato and covered in sugar or honey, they are a truly delicious Christmas treat.