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Everything you need to know about Spain’s December ‘puente’

Everything you need to know about Spain's December 'puente'
A walk in the country or Christmas shopping? Photo: AFP
As the rest of Europe looks forward to time off over the Christimas period, Spain has a sneaky long weekend known as the December Puente.

It’s called a ‘puente’ because it bridges a bank holiday (or in this case two bank holidays) to the weekend meaning people can enjoy a long weekend away from work.

It starts with Consitution Day on December 6 and ends with the religious holiday of Dia de La In­macu­lada Con­cep­ción de la Vir­gen María (The Day of the Immaculate Conception) on December 8 (Although this year because it falls on a Sunday, the bank holiday has been moved to Monday in some regions).

What is Constitution Day?

Día de la Con­stitu­cion marks the anniversary of the 1978 referendum to approve Spain’s constitution, a hugely important important step in the transition from a dictatorship to modern democracy.

On the death of the dictator General Francisco Franco on November 20 1975, Spain entered a period of transition as Spain sought to establish a new constitution and democratic political system.  

The first elections were held on June 15, 1977 and that parliament drew up a new constitution which was then put to the people in a referendum on December 6, 1978 when it was approved by an overwhelming 88 percent.

In 1983, it was decided to commemorate such an important date with a national bank holiday.

So how is it celebrated?


Photo: AFP

Spain’s Congress opens its doors to the public on December 6th and those that visit on this day will be given a commemorative gift.

In reality most people use the long weekend not to reflect on their democratic freedoms but to relax, meet friends or family or do some Christmas shopping. Many use it as an opportunity for a long weekend away, visiting another city or heading to the mountains for the first skiing of the season.

The Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception

December 8th is a feast day that forms the other essential part of the December puente.

What are we celebrating?


Photo: AFP

The first question that springs to mind to those non-Catholics among us is “isn’t it a bit close to Christmas to be marking the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary with the Son of God?”.

Well, yes. ThisFeast Day actually marks the Immaculate Conception – that is, the conception of the Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne.

It's often mistakenly thought to mark Mary's conception of Jesus, but actually marks the conception of Mary herself. Unlike Mary, Saint Anne became pregnant in the usual biological way, Catholics believe, but the conception was 'immaculate' because God intervened, absolving Mary of original sin.

According to Catholic dogma, all humans are born with original sin, which is why babies are baptized shortly after birth to make them worthy of entry to Heaven. But Mary was never tainted by original sin, kept 'immaculate' from the moment of her conception because God knew she would one day give birth to Jesus Christ.

December 8th was first officially declared a holy day by the Vatican in 1854, when Pope Pius IX settled disputes and confirmed that the conception had been immaculate. But the first celebrations of the event happened as early is the seventh century.

READ ALSO: Spain's public holidays in 2020: Official list 

How is it marked?

On the day itself, (Sunday December 8th) there will be special masses held at Catholic churches across Spain.

But because it falls on a Sunday this year, the public holiday has been shifted to Monday so that people can still enjoy four days off work.

But that isn’t in all the regions of Spain. Each regional government has a certain leeway to pick and choose which holidays they celebrate as ‘public holidays’ – there are eight national days and four regional days that form the annual public holidays.

This year, Aragon, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, Extremadura, La Rioja and Madrid have chosen to roll it over to the Monday while the others have not.

However this doesn’t mean that even in those regions everything will be closed. Because, this holiday is a rollover and not held on the feast day itself and because it’s a good opportunity for Christmas shopping, the majority of shops will be open.

But government offices, post offices, banks and schools are closed for the public holiday, so it's not a good time to catch up on admin. 

Transport strikes that could affect weekend travel


Photo: AFP

This year, the weekend will be marked by strikes. Renfe workers are staging stoppages on Thursday 5th, affecting travellers making an early getaway for the weekend. 

Workers unions have also called strikes at fuel stations across Spain on December 5th and 9th coinciding with the busiest travel days over the long weekend and with the COP25 global climate change summit taking place in Madrid.

Weekend weather

After a week that saw storms bring high winds and torrential rain to coastal areas of southeastern Spain, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia, the weather is predicted to stablize for the weekend. 

 

 

So with all that in mind, here's some ideas for the puente:


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