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CHRISTMAS

What kind of Christmas can we expect in Spain this year?

With all the Covid-19 restrictions in place across Spain what type of Christmas can we hope for this year?

What kind of Christmas can we expect in Spain this year?
Image: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

One thing is for sure, there will be lots of changes to our Christmas celebrations this year, not just on Christmas day, but around the whole holiday season. But, Christmas in Spain is not cancelled and there are still many celebrations which plan to go ahead. 

Families

For us expats, Christmas this year may mean not being able to go back to our countries to spend the time with family or our families not being able to come here to spend it with us. 

In most regions across Spain, there are currently limits on the number of people that can meet at one time. Current limits are six people, and if those limits are in place in December, it could many that many peoples' Christmas celebrations will be a lot smaller this year, without all the extended family.

The spokesman for the coronavirus management committee in the Balearic Islands, Javier Arranz, has told the Al dia program on IB3Radio, that the behaviour of the population on the puente de la Constitución on December 6, will determine how Christmas will be celebrated. “If mobility is out of control during this time, parties are held, crowds occur gather… it is clear that Christmas celebrations won’t consist of 15 people, but five or six instead”.

Christmas Markets

Christmas market. Image: denAsuncioner/Flickr

Another big tradition that will change this year in the weeks leading up to Christmas, are Spain's Christmas markets. The Basque city of San Sebastián has confirmed that its Christmas market will go ahead, but with added security measures. The city has confirmed that will will have 38 booths and four food trucks. Granada has also approved the contracts for the traditional Nativity scene and a local Christmas flea market. 

Madrid has yet to confirm if its grand Christmas market on Plaza Mayor will go ahead. The Association of the Christmas Market of Plaza Mayor told El Independiente: “If sanitary conditions allow, it is our intention that the market will happen”. They also said that they would control the capacity, asking attendees to maintain a safe distances and separate the stalls with screens, among other measures.

Barcelona's Christmas market La Fira de Santa Llúcia will only go ahead from November 27 to December 23, if health conditions allow. The secretary of the Fira de Santa Llúcia Association, Montse Monet told Time Out that if it does go ahead, maximum security measures will be enforced. Normally, the market has 280 stalls, but it is likely that if the market will have to be reduced to 133 stalls this year instead. 

The Kings' Parade

Kings' Parade. Image: Diario de Madrid/WikiCommons

The Cabalgata de Reyes or Kings' Parade is one of Spain's biggest Christmas traditions that might have to change this year. In Madrid they have already cancelled the district parades across the city and have yet to announce whether the main one ending at Palacio de Cibeles will still go ahead or not. 

In Catalonia, they are trying to come up with a safe way to continue the Kings' parade traditions without the crowds. This could include a static parade, as well as the elimination of throwing sweets to children. It is also thought that the Nativity scene in Barcelona’s Plaça Sant Jaume will be cancelled this year. 

Christmas Lights 

Regions across Spain have been encouraged to increase their Christmas lights and decorations this year, in order to help make Christmas special despite all the restrictions and cancellations. Barcelona has announced that it will have 100 kilometres of Christmas lights this year, particularly around plaza Catalunya, Universitat, and calles Balmes and Pelai. 39 of the municipal markets will also decorate their facades with lights. 

Barcelona Town Hall has said that it has earmarked 1.7 million euros for Christmas lights this year, which is an increase of 65 percent on last year. The Christmas lights will be switched on during a show by Sol Picó in the la plaza comercial in El Born on November 26. The show will be televised, but no members of the public will be allowed to attend in person. 

Christmas lights in Malaga last year. Image: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Christmas Lottery

It is expected that the famous Spanish Christmas Lottery will go ahead and is scheduled for December 22. President of Loterías y Apuestas del Estado (SELAE), Jesús Huerta has said that “there will be maximum sanitary guarantees and all preventive measures will be in place.” 

Messages from the authorities

Health Minister Salvador Illa told La Sexta that they will “try to do the maximum” they can, but it will be necessary to adapt to the epidemiological situation.” He said that he understands that it is a time for family reunions and an important religious festival, but that this year “Christmas will be different from last year”.

The Minister of Health of the Community of Madrid, Enrique Ruiz Escudero has said in an interview with VozPópuli that “if the decline in infections continues for weeks” he will not rule out family celebrations this Christmas. “If by December optimal conditions in terms of infections and accumulated incidence, have been reached, it will be possible to start thinking about returning to normality as cautiously as possible,” he continued. 

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FACE MASKS

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spain's Health Minister has announced that in the coming days masks will no longer be mandatory on planes, buses, trains, taxis and other means of public transport.

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday confirmed that face masks would no longer be compulsory on public transport, a measure which has been in place in Spain for almost three years. 

“I will raise the proposal of eliminating the mandatory use of masks on public transport”, she said, adding that next week she will convene with the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System to “put this measure into effect”.  

Darias did not specify exactly when this would happen, although government agreements are usually approved the following day in the Official State Gazette (BOE), so the official end to the mask rule looks set to be on February 8th.

The minister did clarify however that masks would still be mandatory in health settings such as health centres and hospitals “as health experts advise”. 

Last week, Darias reported the possibility of eliminating the mandatory mask rule in pharmacies, but this is currently being “weighed up” by health experts.  

Manuel Franco, an expert in Public Health and a member of the Spanish Society of Public Health and Sanitary Administration (Sespas) explained that “the World Health Organisation (WHO) is already considering the decision to lift the public health emergency warning for Covid-19” and adds that “if this goes ahead, it would make no sense to maintain the mask rule”.  

The use of masks ceased to be mandatory outdoors almost a year ago, on February 10th, 2022.

Then, two months later on April 20th, the government announced they wouldn’t be required indoors either, except in health centres and on public transport. 

The latest bulletin of Sentinel Surveillance of Acute Respiratory Infection in Primary Care (ARIs) and in Hospitals (SARI), announced a drop in infections and hospitalisations and said that the rates for Covid-19 remain stable.

The decision to end the mask rule in February comes after health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health said that masks should no longer be required on public transport

On Wednesday, January 25th the director of the Health Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Health (CCAES), Fernando Simón, assured that the end of the mask rule on transport would be announced “shortly” either “next week or the following”.  

Then, on Thursday morning, government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, stated that the decision to remove the mask on public transport would be taken “immediately, when possible”, but pointed out that the government was looking at the situation in China first. 

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