Traditions and customs of Spain

What traditions and customs are there in Spain?

With an ancient history, the customs and traditions of Spain.


Food in daily life

The traditional Spanish diet is based on the products of an agrarian, livestock and horticultural society. The main staple foods are bread (wheat is preferred); legumes (chickpeas, broad beans, lentils); rice; garden vegetables; cured pork products; lamb and veal (and beef, in many newly sought after regions); the eggs; farmyard animals (chickens, rabbits, pigeons).

Wild herbs available in the area, game, fish and shellfish; salted fish (especially cod and congréola); olives and olive oil; orchard fruits and nuts; grapes and grape wine; cow, sheep and/or goat milk and cured dairy products and dishes (cured cheeses and fresh curd); honey and condiments of Spanish origin (parsley, thyme, oregano, paprika, saffron, onions, garlic).

Home-made honey production is now largely overshadowed by the use of sugar cane and sugar beet products, which have been commercialized in some areas.

Among the most important vegetables are potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage and chard, green peas, asparagus, artichokes, courgette, pumpkin and aubergine. Most of them are ubiquitous, but some, such as artichokes and asparagus, are also widely traded, especially canned.

In addition to olives, oranges and lemons, quinces, figs, cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, pears, apples, almonds and walnuts are important.

Of these, oranges, almonds and quinces are marketed, in particular, as well as olives and their oil. The most important fruits of the vine are grapes and melons, and in some regions capers are grown. The most commercialized herbs are paprika and saffron, both widely used in Spanish cuisine.

The Spanish midday stew, of which every region has at least one version, is a soupy dish of legumes with potatoes, seasoned with cured pork products and fresh meats in small quantities, and with seasonal vegetables on the side or in the stew. This is known as stew or pot rotten and in some homes it is eaten, in one version or another, every day.

On meat abstinence days, the stew is prepared with cod or conger eel. In the eastern rice areas of Valencia and Murcia, the midday meal can be one of the dishes of the paella family (rice with vegetables, meat, poultry and/or seafood). These rice dishes are eaten everywhere, but in some areas they are often reserved for Sundays.

The midday meal around 2:00 pm is the main meal of the day, usually taken by families together at home. This follows a small breakfast of coffee or chocolate and bread or other dough products: breakfast cakes, packaged cookies, or churros. Family members can eat breakfast at different times.

A lunch – which is too heavy for farmers in the field or for physical workers – can also be taken on a more individual basis. At the end of the afternoon, between 6:00 and 8:00 pm, people can eat a snack at home or outside, or a tapas sandwich (appetizers) with a drink in a bar; for some families, the snack replaces the later dinner.

When eaten, dinner is a light meal—often soup, eggs, fish, or deli meats—and is eaten by families together around 10:00 p.m. This meal pattern is national.

Family meals, lunch and dinner, are important moments of meeting. Even in congested urban areas, most workers return home for lunch and return to work afterwards.

Business and office hours are designed around meal times: most businesses close at 1:00 or 2:00 PM and don’t reopen until 4:00 or 5:00 PM at the earliest, depending on the season-winter, bringing the afternoon hours earlier than the summer hours. Banks and many offices do not have evening hours.

Grocery stores, butchers, and fishmongers may stay open longer in the mornings and not reopen until at least 6:00 (or not reopen) and then stay open until about 9:00 PM to accommodate to buyers who arrive late.

Virtually all commerce is closed for the family dinner hour at 10:00 PM, except of course the taverns, bars and restaurants.

Restaurant dining has become common in the urban middle, professional, and upper classes, where restaurants have made some inroads into home cooking for some families; however, in general, family meals and dinner times are crucial aspects of family life throughout the country.

Restaurants in urban areas date from the mid-19th century: the Swiss restaurateur opened his namesake Lhardy in Madrid in 1839. Other types of establishments: converted, houses specializing in specific types of beverages (such as chocolate), and inns offering meals at travelers are, of course, much older.

But urban restaurants offering meals to those who could eat at home represented a new type of social activity for those who could afford the price.

Until the 1970s, Spaniards who ate in restaurants did so mainly as a family and mainly to eat together, at leisure and in public, and not to try new foods. The menus were mostly Spanish dishes from the same inventory that the home cooks also made.

The main national dishes and food products of Spain are the different cocidos and the paella family, the stuffed peppers, the Spanish tortilla (Spanish omelette), and the cured hams and sausages.

A dish like gazpacho is more closely associated with Andalusia and is usually seasonal, but today it has national recognition, although most of its varieties are little known outside their areas of origin. Tomato gazpacho is one of the Spanish dishes with an international presence, as are paellas and Serrano hams.

The contemporary Spanish version of the old barley water (French orgeat) or almond water soft drinks is made from the tuber tiger nut and is called horchata. This drink is mainly produced for Spanish consumption. Another drink, Sherry wine, which is produced around the southern city of Jerez de la Frontera, is internationally famous.

And it was the Spanish who first introduced Europeans to drinking chocolate. Chocolate rooms, like coffee shops and wineries, are public gathering places that cater to and attract customers for specific beverages. In the country of the northern apple, especially in Asturias, cider houses are important meeting points.

Its product, hard cider, is also bottled and exported to other regions and abroad. Wine, however, is the most common accompaniment to meals in most parts of the country, and beer is mostly drunk before or between meals.

A series of desserts and sweets have a national presence, mainly a group of dairy desserts from the family of flans or caramel flans. Cheese features heavily as a dessert and is often served with quince paste.

Almond candies or almond paste made with honey and egg whites (turrón, turrón, almond turrón or marzipan) and marzipan (“marzipan”) are consumed everywhere during the Christmas holidays and are shipped all over the country and abroad from the almond cultivation centers in the eastern part of the province of Alicante (especially from the town of Jijona).

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Eating and drinking together are the main ways that Spaniards spend time together, be it during daily leisure moments, weekly on Sundays or on special occasions. Special occasions include general religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas and family celebrations such as birthdays, personal saints’ days, baptisms, first communions and weddings.

Many of them include guests, and in small villages there may be at least symbolic food offerings for the entire population. Food is the main currency of social exchange. Everywhere people with enough free time form groups whose main purpose is the regular enjoyment of food and/or drink.

These sociable groups of friends are called cuadrillas, peñas, or by other terms, and their number is by no means limited to the well-known male feeding societies of the Basque Country.

The content of special meals varies. Some of the dishes in the daily inventory are the most elaborate and numerous, with the most select ingredients. Some respond to the abstentions required by the Church (mainly from the flesh) on particular days such as Christmas Eve and during Lent.

Cod and eel are especially important in meatless dishes. Some purely secular festivals of rural families accompany the execution of great tasks: the shearing of sheep, the slaughter of pigs, or the threshing of the grain harvest. In some regions, a funeral meal follows a burial; this is organized by the family of the deceased for their relatives and other guests.

This meal (without meat) is in most places a thing of the past, and the Church has discouraged funeral banquets, but it was an important tradition in the north, in Basque and in other regions.


Basic standards of civility and decorum, such as definitions of accepted standards of dress and undress, are comparable to the rest of Europe and the West in general. A crucial aspect of spoken exchange in Spanish is the selective use of tú or tú. The formal form was once used by the young to their elders even in the family, but this is now uncommon.

Outside the family, the formal is used in situations of distance and social inequality, including age inequalities, and is often used reciprocally by both parties as a sign of respect for social distance and not as a mark of superiority of one of them. the parts.

There is some regional and social class variation in patterns of formal versus familiar address and the ease or speed with which people who are no longer strangers transition into the familiar you.

Table etiquette for most occasions is informal by many European standards. People who eat together do so in relative privacy and without tension. Even in many restaurants, but especially at home, diners share certain types of dishes from a common platter: certain appetizers, salads, and traditional paellas.

Verbal etiquette (telling others “take advantage”) is reserved for people who do not share food at the same table: it is a label of separation rather than inclusion.


Religious beliefs

Spain has been a deeply Catholic country for centuries, and Catholicism was the official religion for most of recent history until after Franco’s death. Church and state were briefly separated under the First and Second Republics, but their enduring separation did not begin until the 1978 Constitution came into effect.

Although their numbers have grown, non-Catholics in Spain today are probably less than 2 percent of the population. Under Franco, regulations regarding the practice of other religions relegated them to near invisibility, even when they were not prohibited. Today non-Catholics practice openly.

Although the vast majority of Spaniards are Catholic, there is great variation in the degree to which baptized Spaniards are observant and in the style of their devotions. The Church’s economic and political powers have promoted deep anticlericalism among many believing Catholics, often pitting regions, smaller towns or households, as well as different social classes, against each other.

The different policies of Spanish Catholicism give different sectors of the population different profiles, even when basic religiosity itself is not at stake. The complex Catholic tradition admits private forms of devotion along with more public and collective forms, so that even small populations see and tolerate some internal diversity in religious practice.

There are also non-believers. The current environment encourages a freer expression of disbelief than has been customary, except briefly in the last few centuries, and some young parents do not baptize their children. This is not necessarily very common; the number of baptisms performed in Spain has decreased, but so has the birth rate.

All Spaniards of whatever creed live in a Catholic environment: a landscape full of sanctuaries and churches; an artistic heritage rich in religious references; a language and customs in which folklore and religious tradition converge; mainly secular holidays that are represented in a religious calendar; and a national history that is accurately interpreted as the defense of Christianity, with the Catholic Church a central presence from century to century.

Students of Spain, visitors and practitioners of other religions must understand this Catholic environment if they want to understand the Spanish national culture.

Religious professionals

In an overwhelmingly Catholic country, religious practitioners are members of the church hierarchy, ordinary clergy, and members of monastic orders (both monks and nuns). The monastic orders are very important in sponsoring institutions of primary and secondary education.

The clergy, of course, serve the entire population beginning at the parish level. The hierarchy of religious officialdom has its apex in the Vatican and in the position of Pope. Clergy and officialdom from minority religions – Jews, Muslims, various Protestant denominations and others – are also present to openly serve their followers. However, they are very few.

Rituals and sacred places

Spanish towns, from hamlets to large cities, and many neighborhoods within population centers, have patron saints, each of whose days a public festival or fiesta is celebrated. These festivals mark the year and, together with weddings, constitute the main events of traditional social life, especially in rural areas.

The festivities are of a religious and secular character, and generally include both public and domestic festivities, as well as the celebration of masses. Some towns sponsor bullfights or other public spectacles on festivals.

Shrines, associated with miracles, are often outside population centers and are visited (like churches) by individual devotees or by large groups on days associated with the holy figures to whom they are dedicated. The collective pilgrimages to the sanctuaries in the countryside on their special days are called pilgrimages and usually include picnics, masses and prayer.

Shrines, from caves or field huts to elaborate structures, and churches, from parish churches to cathedrals, are the holy places of Spanish Catholicism. Their festivals are scattered throughout the year and do not involve the nation or necessarily an entire town or region.

The ecclesiastical festivals that attract the entire population are, for example, the official Church festivals such as Easter, Christmas or Corpus Christi, and the day of Santiago (the Apostle James the Greater), July 25, the national patron day.

These national religious holidays are celebrated by formal masses but also with varied local traditions throughout the country. Catholic masses themselves are largely universal rituals that are not subject to significant local variation.

Secular celebrations

Many of the most important festivals in Spain have a double quality: the essentially secular festivals are celebrated on occasions that also have religious significance.

Each day of the year is associated with one or more saints or sacred meanings in the Catholic calendar, yet some of the events that take place on specific religious holidays have a distinctly secular quality: bullfighting on holidays; the king’s official birthday (a national holiday) on June 24, the Feast of Saint John; town business accounting meetings held after mass on designated days.

Spain’s national holiday is October 12, the celebration of Hispanidad, or the Hispanization of the New World after Columbus landed on that day in 1492.

But, naturally, many Spaniards also celebrate the very popular Virgen del Pilar on October 12, either because they bear her name, because they live in Zaragoza (of which she is patron) or because they belong to a brotherhood or other group (such as the Civil Guard) of which she is patron.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

Spanish art production has quickly recovered from the stultifying Franco era, when many artists, writers and musicians worked in exile.

There is enormous public interest in works of art and architecture (where the name of Antoni Gaudí must appear), in Spain’s art museums, as well as in its architectural monuments from various periods and in its important archaeological sites, which are widely visited by Spanish and foreign tourists.

Madrid and Barcelona are two of the cities with the most museums in Europe. The arts receive support from both the government and the private sector; great artists are treated like celebrities, and the humanities and fine arts are firmly established in universities and professional academies, along with a multitude of local, regional, and national museums.


Spanish writers from the Middle Ages to the present have contributed to the inventory of the masterpieces of Western literature.

Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1547-1616), the works of Lope de Vega Carpio (1562-1635) and Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681), the poetry and plays of Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), and the works of five Nobel laureates in literature are just a few from different eras.

There are also ancient monuments of the vernacular literature of the Middle Ages that illustrate the study of medieval Europe as a whole.

Graphic arts

Spanish graphic artists are also known worldwide and span centuries: El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos; 1541-1614), Diego de Velázquez (1599-1660), Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923), Joan Miró (1893-1983), Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), among many others, can be studied in museums and universities around the world.

Contemporary painters and sculptors have a large following in Spain and elsewhere.

The decorative arts also form a rich part of Spain’s national heritage and are well displayed in museums in Spain and elsewhere.

Ceramic tiles, other forms of ceramics, lace, weaving, embroidery, and other handicrafts are often the main adornments of Spanish homes, are part of the traditional trousseau (personal possessions of a bride), and are the treasures passed down from generation to generation. in generation.

More than painting and sculpture, these are forms to which even humble Spaniards have intense attachments and whose style and motifs often serve as emblems of national or regional identity.

Performing arts

The flamenco language of singing, dancing and musical accompaniment is generally seen as unique to Spanish and, although it is appreciated everywhere, it is more closely related to Andalusia.

The rise of the classical guitar to wide recognition as a concert instrument in the 20th century is also closely identified with Spain and with Spanish composers and performers (for example, Joaquín Rodrigo [1901-1999] and Andrés Segovia [1893?-1987 ] respectively).

Spanish composers in general -such as Enrique Granados (1867-1916), Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) and Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)- have brought the Spanish folk musical language to world concert stages. The appreciation of the Spanish light opera, the zarzuela, depends more on proficiency in Spanish.

However, zarzuela is recognized beyond the Spanish-speaking world, especially through the person of an interpreter like Plácido Domingo (1941-).

Spain has had an active film industry since the 1890s. The great popularity in Spain of the film medium has made it a vehicle for social and political commentary and thus has opened it up to the censorship under which production has worked. film in some eras.

Filmmakers worked under restrictive censorship during different periods between 1913 and 1978, so some Spaniards produced their films clandestinely or outside of Spain. Luís Buñuel is an example that has gained international recognition.

Others, like Luís García Berlanga, achieved widespread recognition with films made in Spain. Contemporary Spanish directors whose names are known to Americans are Carlos Saura and Pedro Almodóvar.

Almodóvar won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1999 for “All About My Mother.” Spaniards are film enthusiasts and the history of their film industry has been the subject of serious study by cultural analysts.

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