Christmas in Málaga is definitely one of the best times of year in the city. The lights, the weather and the energy make it unique in Spain.
I have a little confession to make to all of you. I love Christmas in Málaga. I’ve spent many Christmases here with Pedro’s family and we always have a fantastic time with lots of great food, wine and laughs. Málaga at Christmas is magical and beautiful and everything you want from Christmas…except cold. And while I sometimes miss the cold weather from the Christmases in Connecticut with my grandparents, there is something to be said for Christmas in Málaga with sunny skies and palm trees. So this year I got to thinking about what makes Christmas in Málaga so special.
Calle Larios has the best lights I’ve EVER seen
I still remember the first time Pedro took me down town to see Calle Larios and the holiday lights. It was the first time I’d been to Málaga at Christmas and I had no idea what to expect, so when I saw the impressive Calle Larios, (which up to that point, I’d only seen during the craziness of the August fair), I could hardly have expected that there would be lights reaching across the street in majestic looking red and white swirls. I felt like a little kid again. And every year since then it’s just gotten better. First with pink and white sparkly swirls, then with huge arches that were meant to look like a cathedral and, again outdoing themselves, a canopy of twinkle lights, stars and moons that cover the whole street like a tunnel. Absolutely breathtaking. Always.
Churros at Casa Aranda
Every Spanish city has a place that you HAVE to go to get churros and chocolate. In Málaga, that place has always been Casa Aranda. The shop has grown over the years, but my favorite part is pushing our way inside through the crowds to a spot at the bar. They are always packed at the holidays, and I love watching the show from the metal bar. In the corner of the shop, the magic is happening. A man drops the churro dough into a huge vat of oil to fry them a crispy golden brown. Outside at the tables grandmas are having their afternoon snack, groups of high school kids share heaping plates of churros with steaming cups of chocolate. And the clatter of coffee cups and the steamy smell of fried dough mixes with chocolate. It smells like Christmas in Málaga.
We might not have snow, but we have the beach!
It’s true that I sometimes miss the cold weather at Christmas time, but there is something to be said for a walk along the beach and soaking up the sun in late December. The first year we spent Christmas in Málaga, Pedro took me for a walk along the boardwalk, which is one of the longest in Europe. I couldn’t believe how long we walked. All the way from the big letters spelling out Malagueta on the beach to the Baños del Carmen. It was so warm I took off my coat and I have to admit, that for those moments, I didn’t miss the snow one bit!
You’ve never seen nativity scenes like these!
In all of Spain, the nativity scenes are a big deal. People will go to the Christmas markets to buy moss, detailed figurines and scenery to make their own nativity scene increasingly more involved and historically accurate. In town, you can see the extent of this art form in the town hall (there is always a line out the door to see their nativity) and at the many churches. Sometimes we go from one to the other comparing and deciding which one we like best. Recently there have been a couple strange additions to the one at the town hall. I could have sworn I saw a “biznaguero” (a man selling the famous biznaga flowers) who I doubt was there at the birth of Jesus…but hey, when in Málaga…
Shopping in the city center
One thing I’ve always loved about Málaga is that the city center is very compact. If you walk along the streets of down town on a Saturday in December you’ll see what I mean. The city is practically buzzing with the energy of people shopping. It always makes me think of Petula Clark’s song “DownTown.” It’s impossible to feel lonely in downtown Málaga at Christmas time.
Polvorones and sweet wine
One of the most common sweets at Christmas in Spain are polvorones. I’m going to throw it back to 2008 when I had my first experience with this cookie. We had just finished lunch and someone offered my friend and I one of these “typical Spanish Christmas cookies.” Never one to turn down a sweet, I took a huge bite of the polvoron and I was shocked to find myself with a crumbly mouthful of spicy sweetness. I didn’t know what to make of the cookie at first, but made a mental note to take a smaller bite next time. Over the years I’ve come to love the polvorones, especially when accompanied by a little glass of Málaga sweet wine. It’s the perfect treat and completely local, as some of the best polvorones in Andalucía come from the nearby town of Antequera. Real malagueños will remind you to squeeze the cookie before you unwrap it from the wax paper because it’s so crumbly it tends to fall apart!
Visiting the little white towns (without the crowds!)
One of my favorite things to do during Christmas in Málaga is take a day trip to one of the white towns nearby. Since the weather is colder, it’s a great chance to head up to the mountains or out to the countryside to enjoy a typical plate of migas and see small town Spanish Christmas. It’s also a great time to visit because there aren’t so many tourists, it’s mostly locals taking walks with their family and enjoying the town, just like us. One of my favorite spots we explored at Christmas was Ronda. Driving along the twisting roads of rural Andalucía with the radio blasting and the sun shining down on us made me happy in a way that few places can.
At this point, I honestly can’t imagine spending Christmas anywhere else but with our family in Málaga. It’s such a special place this time of year that we always find a way to spend at least a few days of the holiday here in the south of Spain. Although Christmas in New York is pretty magical, too. Who knows, maybe Santa will bring us airline tickets this year…