Even though in America ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ has long since passed, Spaniards are surely lamenting the end of their holiday season. Just like the song, in Spain there really are twelve days of Christmas (or thereabouts) with the festivities culminating on the 6th of January; as the holiday season stretches from Black Friday until Christmas Day — New Year’s not having a true ‘Christmas vibe’ — the Christmas season in Spain lasts from a bit before Christmas Eve until gifts are given on Epiphany. So, although Christmas in country is more similar than different from in America, there are certainly things one needs to be abreast of. In today’s post, we’d like to discuss a bit of holiday vocabulary.
From ‘Good Night’ to ‘Old Night’
One of the first terms one hears associated with Christmas is Nochebuena. But what does this refer to exactly? Of course a literal translation into English would render this term as ‘good night’, it is obviously nondescript. The term Nochebuena in Spanish actually refers to December 24th — Christmas Eve. Though this may seem strange at first, remember in English that we have a similar term when it comes to Easter, the Friday before Easter Sunday being called merely Good Friday.
In the same fashion that the word Nochebuena may strike one as being odd, the term for New Year’s Eve is equally as strange — though perhaps slightly more logical. In Spanish the night of December the 31st is denominated Nochevieja, which would literally translate to ‘Old Night’ in English.
May all your Christmases…
Despite having heard the song ‘White Christmas’ hundreds of times, hearing and seeing the word ‘Christmas’ in plural still catches our eye as an anomaly. In Spanish, however, both the terms Navidad and Navidades are used regularly; the plural form, however, does not typically refer to more than one Christmas Day in different years (although it can). Logically, the word Navidad is primarily used as a metonymy referring to el Día de Navidad, that is, the 25th of December. In contrast, the term Navidades refers more to the entire Christmas season, although they technically they can be used rather interchangeably.
Los Reyes Magos
Depending on one’s religious background, the English word Epiphany may or may not mean anything. In many Christian traditions, January the 6th is a special day to mark when the wise men/magi visited the Christ child. Many American calendars include this day, although obviously, it is not observed federally in the US. In Spanish, the formal name for this day is the same: la Epifanía del Señor. In familiar contexts, however, January the 6th is referred to as el Día de Reyes, or just simply Reyes. This name is a reference to the Spanish term for the wise men/magi — los Reyes Magos — who in Spanish culture are the one to bring children gifts, not on Christmas Day, but rather, on Epiphany.
Isn’t Reno a city in Nevada?
Just as Virginia asked whether or not there was a Santa Claus, one may ask whether Reno is a city in Nevada — the answer, of course, being ‘yes’. As is the case with many American cities (and several states), the name of said municipality is also a Spanish word. Believe it or not, reno means ‘reindeer’ in Spanish. In this particular case, however, there is no connection between the city name and the Spanish word: Reno, Nevada was named after the American military officer Jesse L. Reno.
The Holidays May Be Over, But…
Although the holidays are over, the ‘festivities’ continue as the day after Epiphany marks the beginning of massive sales in virtually all stores across Spain. So, the after-Christmas blues will be very short-lived. When the holidays roll around this year, though, we’ll be ready with all the necessary vocabulary.