The Belens, Christmas Bus, Luces de Navidad, Doce Uvas y Cabalgata in Madrid


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Europe » Spain » District of Madrid
January 5th 2014
Published: January 8th 2014EDIT THIS ENTRY

Iconic Metropolis By NightIconic Metropolis By NightIconic Metropolis By Night

The Navidad (Christmas) Bus passes by this iconic building... on to Gran Via and Santo Domingo to view Luces de Navidad (Christmas lights).
Spending Christmas in Madrid? There is much to explore, to discover, and to enjoy, while homebased in the capital.




Homebased In Madrid



I should get a prize for visiting so many belens (Nativity Scenes) and riding on the Navidad Bus (NaviBus) passing Madrid streets decorated with Christmas lights. Christmas here in Madrid is all about Nativity. The Infant Jesus. Bethlehem. More than Christmas Trees, many Spaniards decorate their homes by reserving a space within the house for their belens. Basic setup includes the Infant Jesus, Saint Joseph, Mother Mary, an ox and a mule. The more elaborate setup includes the Three Wise Men or 3 Kings, and whole villages around the manger in Bethlehem where Jesus was born.



The December 25 celebration is all about Nativity and there's no Papa Noel or Santa Claus bearing gifts to distract you, especially the children, on Jesus' birthday. The gift-giving happens on January 6, the Feast of the Three Kings. Makes lotsa sense to me. Those wise men started the tradition, right? Walking around the capital, I was amused to find some Spanish balconies decorated with the 3 kings climbing up a rope, bearing gifts. No
My Favorite Nativity SceneMy Favorite Nativity SceneMy Favorite Nativity Scene

Is it the Town Hall? I chanced upon this near Puerta del Sol. The belen is so detailed, weaving in "village life" in Bethlehem. Lovely!
Santa coming in through the chimneys here.




The Belens or Nativity Scenes



The more elaborate ones I've seen are those in Palacio de Cibeles, the one in Calle Correos near Puerta del Sol and in Palacio Real. The setup in Palacio de Cibeles features the masterfully crafted ceramic art of Salzillo. In all three, the entire Bethlehem Village is featured, including bridges, wells, more pasture animals, more villagers going about their daily lives. The simpler ones I found were in churches, state buildings, department stores, and public squares. Truly, the Nativity Scenes add meaning and solemnity to the real essence of Christmas. One belen that deeply touched me is the one displayed in a tiny church at the corner of Calle Fuencarral and Calle Augusto Figueroa. The belen on display is a gift to the Mensajeros de la Paz (Messengers of Peace) by the people of Cebu from my home country. Tagged "Belen de Filipinas ", the gift is simple, but loaded with heartfelt gratitude for their volunteer work to help the Typhoon Haiyan victims in Central Philippines. Gracias, España.






The Navidad Bus and Luces de Navidad




Oh, you'd still find a Christmas Tree here
Meet CasparMeet CasparMeet Caspar

One of 3 Kings. The last 3 carrozas or floats carried los reyes magos.
and there. And yes, I did see a fat man dressed in red in busy Puerta del Sol. But they're not the norm. And Christmas lights? Those Luces de Navidad are quite impressive. Rather than walking several blocks around the capital, one can ride the navibus instead. Not sure if there is a competition, but each street has its own "designer". The NaviBus starts from Plaza de Colon driving past the Puerta de Alcala, Palacio de Cibeles, the iconic Metropolis building, Gran Via, Plaza Santo Domingo, Calles Diego Velasquez, Goya, Serrano, etc in the posh Salamanca District. For only 2€, one is spared from leg cramps from all that walking ...... but not from frozen cheeks and fingers from all that exposure on an open top bus. I went 3 times. The first time, my iPhone died on me so i couldn't take any photos. The 2nd time, I brought a camera but frozen fingers got in the way. The 3rd time, I brought my niece and her friends with me.




Doce Uvas For Good Luck?





It's one of those "marketing gimmicks" that stuck. Story is there was a bumper crop of grapes
Puerta de AlcalaPuerta de AlcalaPuerta de Alcala

.... Looking like a veiled bride.
around the Season in olden times, and some smart fellow weaved this story about eating 12 grapes to welcome the new year for good luck. Very smart. But do you really have to eat them that fast? I nearly choked popping seedless grapes into my mouth at every bell ring at the stroke of midnight. I mean, there are 60 seconds to a minute, right? Five seconds for each grape could have been doable. But I swear the bell rang every second or two!



So much cheer as we welcomed the new year in Puerta del Sol. There was singing and drinking before the countdown. People sporting colorful hats and wigs, shiny suits and anything glittery. Policia surrounded us, with a trio barging into the crowd distributing huge plastic containers to empty our bottles. A group beside us kept one bottle of cognac but alas, the policia were looking. They surrendered their bottle peacefully then carried on with the merriment. Happy New Year!




Cabalgata De los Reyes Magos




The much-awaited street parade on the Twelfth Night of Christmas. The eve of Epiphany. Feast of Kings Melchor, Gaspar (Caspar here) and Baltazar (Balthasar aqui). So much
Christmas Stars Christmas Stars Christmas Stars

One of the side streets around Puerta del Sol.
revelry and cheer. After all, those children had to wait till now for their christmas presents!





You need tons of patience waiting by the streets to watch the parade. Started at 6:30pm from Nuevos Ministerios, weaving through Plaza Colon, till it reached its final destination: Palacio de Cibeles (formerly known till 2011 as Palacio de Communicaciones). There were many carrozas or floats, marching bands, fireeaters, magicians, sorcerers, fairies, dancers, acrobats. both adults and children among the spectators chanted "Dulce" or "Caramelo" , begging for candies to be thrown their way. "Aqui, Aqui" shouted the youngsters beside me. I enjoyed myself despite standing for 5 hours (si!) and braving the frosty weather. Not even the rainshowers (thank God, it was only brief) could deter the crowd nor stop the parade. The last 3 floats carried the 3 magí and the whole theme of this year's parade is MAGIC. I particularly liked the lady acrobat strapped to a bunch of white balloons. There were oohs and aahs from the crowd as the lady in white gown soared high, then dropped low enough to shake hands and tap our heads.





He disfrutada mucho.
Plaza ColonPlaza ColonPlaza Colon

NaviBus line starts here!
I enjoyed very much. Madrid sure knows how to celebrate the Christmas Season without losing its meaning to commercialism. Esta bueno!













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Additional photos below
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The NaviBus passes here....The NaviBus passes here....
The NaviBus passes here....
Along the NaviBus RouteAlong the NaviBus Route
Along the NaviBus Route
Near Plaza ColonNear Plaza Colon
Near Plaza Colon

View from the line....
Near Plaza ColonNear Plaza Colon
Near Plaza Colon
Along the NaviBus RouteAlong the NaviBus Route
Along the NaviBus Route

In posh Salamanca district
Along the NaviBus RouteAlong the NaviBus Route
Along the NaviBus Route

In posh salamanca district
Along the NaviBus RouteAlong the NaviBus Route
Along the NaviBus Route
Calle MayorCalle Mayor
Calle Mayor

Near Puerta del sol
Along the NaviBus RouteAlong the NaviBus Route
Along the NaviBus Route
Favorite BelenFavorite Belen
Favorite Belen

Near Puerta del sol
BelenBelen
Belen
BelenBelen
Belen
Belen de Filipinas Belen de Filipinas
Belen de Filipinas

A gift from the people of cebu for all the help extended by Mensajeros de la Paz (a madrid-based NGO) to Typhoon Haiyan Victims.
Salzillo's belen Salzillo's belen
Salzillo's belen
Salzillo's belen Salzillo's belen
Salzillo's belen


8th January 2014

Wow! It's always great to read about how other cultures celebrate Christmas. I've been following your adventures in Instagram, and it's great to read about the entire story :D
8th January 2014

Hi Nina
It was an eye-opener for me as well. Like, I didn't give much attention to the 3 wise men, till now.
8th January 2014

Madrid and the holidays
What a magnificent time of year to enjoy Madrid. I love rituals and decorations around the world. It sounds like you've done extensive research on all the city has to offer. I would love to see all those nativities and ride the bus. We may have to add Madrid to our holiday travel list!
10th January 2014

I had the time to explore
Somehow i adopted a ritual..... Like each day is like a search for belens in between museum visits and day trips somewhere. Each morning, a desayuno adventure. Soon, it will be over and I 'm home brewing my own coffee.
8th January 2014
My Favorite Nativity Scene

Fabulous lights and nativity scenes!
How wonderful that they had the navibus to take you around to all those incredible light displays! Nativity scenes are also popular here (called nacimientos) but they include figures are widely varied sizes and so are pretty funny. Madrid's belens are really works of art. Thanks for the great holiday blog!
10th January 2014
My Favorite Nativity Scene

Belens
I like this tradition of setting up belens more than a Christmas tree. The Christmas lights were awesome. Imagine me freezing doing all those 3 navibus rides!
9th January 2014

12 grapes and 3 reyes magos
I have never in my whole life been able to eat the 12 grapes following the bells... never, ever, ever!! I tried choosing the smallest, peeling them and taking the seeds out... still no good!!... this year, my grandmother managed to finish hers even before the bells were over!!!, now that's a skill, specially considering that she's got dentures! ;) Also I think we are one of the few families in Spain that don't give presents on the 6th of January to celebrate the coming of the 'Reyes Magos", as my sister chose to come to this world on that very same day, so she's the only one getting anything for her birthday (fairly enough) and so we used to get presents on Christmas day like... I think children now a days get presents on both days.
9th January 2014

Now i feel better....
I nearly choked on those grapes and couldn't imagine how others can do it. Thanks for additional info on gift-giving.... Met new friends here and gifted the child on Christmas Day too. Then i was told about them waiting for Jan 6. I hope the mom didn't make her wait to open her present that long !

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