What is Christmas Like on Tenerife?

Mon, December 6th, 2010 - By Jack Montgomery

A bell clanged behind us and I jokingly said to Andy, ‘is that Santa Claus?’ before turning around to see a portly guy with a long beard and wearing a red suit, ringing a bell as he strode down the road. It was the first of December, there was snow on Mount Teide and Tenerife was gearing up for the festive season.

Before I experienced it, the idea of Christmas on Tenerife conjured up visions of days on the beach under blues skies and a sun that smiled warmly on my skin. A welcome escape from Northern Europe’s icy grasp but lacking a Christmas atmosphere that, like mulled wine, sends a warm tingle coursing through the body. I couldn’t have been more wrong…apart from the warm, sunny bit.

From early December, Christmas lights are turned on in the main towns with Santa Cruz, La Orotava, Puerto de la Cruz and La Laguna especially looking like twinkling winter wonderlands after dark.

Lights also go up in the southern resorts as well to a lesser extent and streets around Playa de las Américas and Los Cristianos are lined with thousands of striking scarlet poinsettias; Christmas flowers. Santa Claus figures appear outside shopping centres, sometimes disconcertingly attired in blue rather than red. Supermarket aisles are filled with packets of different flavours of turron; a cake that you can only buy at Christmas, or until stocks run out. Despite there being Irish coffee, whisky and all sorts of flavours, my favourite is the bog standard yema tostada, which tastes of toasted marzipan and goes perfectly with a cup of strong coffee.

I was completely bowled over the first time I experienced Christmas in Puerto de la Cruz. Apart from the lights, a brass band played Christmas carols in the town square and elaborate nativity scenes called belénes were set up in supermarkets, shop windows and the town hall foyer. These elaborate model villages always feature a man caught short outdoors and, childish though it is, I spend ages trying to track him down in every belén I spot. The biggest nativity scene on Tenerife is the life-sized one outside the town hall in La Orotava.

However, my overdosing on Christmas spirit was halted in its tracks come Christmas Eve. We expected a party of epic proportions, but instead discovered that by 10pm restaurants were closed and bars empty. We didn’t realise that Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) is a serious family affair for the Spanish and everywhere shuts so that families can get together for their big Christmas meal. This doesn’t affect non-Spanish restaurants and bars, so is less noticeable in resorts around Costa Adeje and Las Américas where there are plenty of British bars and therefore also that essential Christmas Eve party atmosphere.

But if you’re planning to be in one of the Spanish resorts eat early unless, like us, you want to spend Christmas Eve on your lonesome eating a most un-Christmassy meal in the only restaurant open – the Chinese.

Posted : Monday, December 6th, 2010 at 10:55 am
Category : food and drink
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3 Responses to “What is Christmas Like on Tenerife?”

  1. islandmomma says:

    LOL! Hmm. Not sure which is worse, not having the family meal on Noche Buena or doing BOTH Noche Buena and English Christmas Dinner the following day. Both are incredible feasts and less the 24 hours apart!……Had that Chinese experience NY Eve though!

    • Jack says:

      Definitely not both – I end up huge enough after over indulging at Christmas and New Year as it is. Eating two Christmas dinners would result in a Monty Python Meaning of Life scenario.

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