Celebrating Christmas in Marbella
Christmas in Marbella is a wonderful mix of Spanish tradition and multicultural diversity.
As one of Europe’s most richly cosmopolitan communities, Marbella – and the wider Costa del Sol – embraces a diverse melting pot of nationalities and cultures.
The Christmas-New Year festive period is a time not only when families come together but also when people from different parts of the world – both those who live permanently in Marbella and others who are holidaying in their second homes or visiting friends – happily join in the communal festivities.
Whether it is standing in the street admiring the brightly illuminated decorations with a couple of strangers or leaning across a restaurant table to wish the family sitting alongside a Happy Christmas, there is a widely pervading congenial spirit of bonhomie and joy.
Family and socialising… these are the two core ingredients of a Spanish Christmas in Marbella, and foreign residents and visitors are warmly welcome to join the locals.
Starting Gun for Christmas Festivities
As with other parts of Spain, the start of the Christmas season in Marbella is marked early (November) by the official switching on of the festive street lights.
Marbella and other municipalities on the Costa del Sol have stressed this year that they will show respect for current energy saving concerns by limiting the overall daily time that their street illuminations are lit. Nevertheless, revellers will still have plenty of opportunities to view and admire their dazzling beauty and creative innovation.
Celestial Angels in Málaga
The most spectacular Christmas lights on the Coast – and among the most stunning in all of Europe – are in Málaga capital city. This year, the display of 16 “Celestial Angels” features an artistic design that has been created exclusively for Málaga.
The focal point is Málaga’s iconic Calle Larios (high street), but the decorations – which combine light and sound and are due to be officially inaugurated on 26 November (7pm) and remain in place until 6 January – have been set up in 500 streets around the city. They comprise 1,350,000 illumination points, video-mapping in the cathedral’s Mocha Tower, and a new lighting show with drones. The time the decorations are lit up is being reduced by two hours daily.
A visit to this showpiece of Málaga’s Christmas festivities is well worth the 45-minute drive from Marbella. Or, alternatively, you can park in Fuengirola and take the local train right into the city centre.
Christmas Festivities in Gibraltar
For those interested in enjoying another distinctive Christmas cultural experience, Gibraltar will light up its Christmas decorations on 18 November at John Mackintosh Square.
The event is due to begin at 6.15pm, with live music and performances and Father Christmas switching on the lights at approximately 7.30pm.
Also hugely popular with young revellers are Gibraltar’s fair attractions, set up at the same John Mackintosh Square and open from Saturday 26 November to Sunday 8 January 2023 (12pm to 7pm).
Gibraltar is a convenient drive from Marbella (about one hour allowing time to cross the border) and has a wide range of first-class accommodation options for those opting to stay overnight, including Sunborn, a former cruise ship converted into the “the world’s first five-star floating yacht hotel”.
Celebrating Christmas Spanish Style
The festive dinner party schedule for Christmas varies from country to country, with some families enjoying their main meal on Christmas Eve and others on Christmas Day.
In Spain, it is the former, the evening of the 24th, usually for the immediate family although close friends and single neighbours are often also invited.
As a newly welcomed “foreign” acquaintance, you might also find yourself fortunate to receive an invitation, as Spaniards in Marbella, and the rest of the Costa del Sol, are noted for their generosity and enthusiasm for helping new arrivals integrate into the local society. This is a significant honour – and an experience not to be missed.
Younger members of the family are likely to disappear to a nightclub or street gathering (“botellón”) with friends once sufficiently nourished, but for the “oldies” the feast of eating and drinking will continue until the early hours.
The same applies to New Year’s Eve, which might include some variations to the menu but will still essentially be another grand culinary extravaganza until midnight, when a bell tower on the TV will announce its time to eat your 12 carefully prepared grapes. According to legend, if you manage to eat every grape before the end of the 12 chimes, you will enjoy good luck and prosperity for the next 12 months.
On both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, local restaurants throughout Marbella cater for the many international residents and visitors who like to book lunch by the sea or at a country inn (venta). In addition to the traditional British roast, they also offer a diverse selection of “international” menus for Nordic, German, Belgian and other European diners.
Boxing Day (26 December) is not normally celebrated as a national holiday in Andalucía, but this year, as Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, it will be an official day-off. So make sure you make your lunch booking well in advance of the date.
That still leaves Three Kings Day on 6 January, with the celebrations beginning the night before as colourful floats move through Marbella’s streets and the “Reyes Magos” (Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar) and their helpers throw sweets to the throngs of delighted children (and adults).
Boutique Christmas Shopping
In the lead up to Christmas and through to Three Kings Day, shopping takes a prominent centre-stage in Marbella. One of Andalucía’s largest and most extensive commercial centres, La Cañada, is transformed into a gaily-decorated showcase of festive gifts and treats.
Select-brand boutiques in Marbella town centre and Puerto Banús and smaller luxury shopping complexes throughout the municipality also offer their own enticing treasure troves, and there are numerous specialist shops for exclusive gifts, gourmet specialities and fancy dress outfits.
Then, of course, there are the usual weekly street markets, which from November set out their stalls with every festive product imaginable, many created by local artisans.
Post-New Year Wellness
Finally, once the celebrations have concluded, and the New Year resolutions are recalled through the lingering fog of mulled wine, it will be a time for a detox, some therapeutic fasting or a return to the usual weekly exercise or sports agenda.
To that end, Marbella is superbly catered for with luxury spas, state-of-the-art gyms, high-end wellness centres and a multitude of first-class sports amenities.