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  • Writer's picturePeace of Mind PM

Christmas celebrations during Covid in Spain

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Who would have known that COVID-19 was already spreading in China last year by this time and was going to prevent us from celebrating Christmas with our friends and beloved ones, a year later?! 2020 Xmas will need to be celebrated in a quite different way in order to reduce the spread of the virus.

With 2020 coming to a close and after following a long list of recommended guidelines by experts (plus several months of home confinement), many countries are suffering from what the OMS calls “pandemic fatigue”. This is the definition of social relaxation that makes people lower their guard and have difficulties in finding the necessary motivation to follow the rules and comply with prevention guidelines.

For this reason, the measures taken for this Christmas holidays against Covid-19 must be extremely clear so that we all understand what will be permitted and how we can all follow the rules.

Below are some of the measures proposed by the Interterritorial Health Council for the Christmas holidays. They are intended to serve as a common framework that will help the autonomous communities implement COVID measures.


1. Reinforce the messages about prevention measures:

Insist on the importance of spending as much time outdoors as possible and ensure good ventilation levels in closed spaces to reduce the risk of airborne transmission through aerosols.

Put in force preventive measures: the use of facemasks in all public spaces, both indoors and outdoors, and wash hands often.

Maintain a safe distance from others, ventilate indoor spaces, reduce the number of social interactions, especially with anyone that has symptoms.

Anyone with a positive diagnosis or in contact with a person diagnosed with Covid should stay at home.

2. Family and social gatherings:

The recommendation for families is to limit the gatherings to only members of the same household, and to celebrate together without outside guests, limiting the gathering to 6 people.

Social gatherings should be avoided or reduced as much as possible, but if they are organized, preferably outdoors.

In any case, it is important to always keep the preventive measures.

3. National and international trips:

Although a lot of traveling is expected during the Christmas holidays, as friends and family gather for Christmas celebrations, professionals advise canceling all non-essential travel plans. In the case of traveling, it is important to know what regulations or restrictions are in force at the destination (national or international), including the PCR tests or other tests that may be required upon entrance.

4. Nighttime mobility limitation:

The obligatory nationwide curfew will be between 12 pm and 6 am, but the curfew on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve begins an hour later, at 1 am or 1:30 am in Madrid and other cities that have introduced it.

5. Christmas events:

In Spain, the evening of January 5th is probably the most special of the Christmas holidays, especially for children. It is when the three wise men and their magical court parade leaves presents in every house. This year due to Covid measures the huge parade that brings Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar every year to cities and villages, will be canceled. However, they will surely find a way to surprise children and adults without putting their health at risk.

Another traditional event is the Nativity scenes (portal de Belen) and the Christmas markets that can be visited as long as the 50% capacity limit is respected.

Linked to the Christmas season in Madrid is the San Silvestre Vallecana race. The coordinators have modified the arrangement to comply with the required health protocols. The route has been modified to a 2.5km circular route around the Paseo de la Castellana and the center of Madrid. The finish line will not be in Vallecas and participants will have no audience to cheer them throughout the race. There will be a participation of 500 athletes (250 men and 250 women) who must have a qualifying time of fewer than 34 minutes (men) and 40 minutes (women). In addition, there is a requirement for all runners to have a negative COVID-19 test.

6. Religious celebrations

For Catholic churchgoers, an important event on Christmas Eve is the midnight service called Misa del Gallo (mass of the rooster) to celebrate the birth of Jesus by singing traditional Christmas carols accompanied by other musical instruments. Sadly, the service will be canceled or be celebrated an hour earlier due to the mobility limitation.

We would like to mention where the name given to this ceremony comes from. According to legend, a rooster crowed the night Jesus was born. Another version states that the name comes from the fact that the church the Pope went to celebrate the mass was San Pedro (del canto del Gallo).

The other religious celebrations taking place in closed spaces will continue to be held with the capacity standards established, with the set safety distance.

7. Restaurants and bars

As the criteria regarding the measures to be taken for restaurants and bars are not the same depending on the city, it is recommended to check what is established in each autonomous community.

Particularly in Madrid, bars and terraces have not been forced to close after confinement, as sadly in other cities. They have had to reduce the capacity to 50% inside and 75% on the terraces and they are obligated to close much earlier at 12pm, and forced to stop serving at 11pm, except if they are providing home delivery services. In any case, it’s important to keep in mind the recommendation to use facemask when not eating or drinking, avoid snacking, keep to the 6 person limit per table, and smoking on the terrace is not allowed.

Many streets in Madrid have changed their rules with restaurant’s terraces extending to parking areas to offer space for tables outside. Thanks to these measures the city has had a lot of street life and businesses have been saved from closing. Although we are all looking forward to going back to the bars to have a beer and choose from the many pinchos and tapas that are a hallmark of our country, we still have to wait… but hopefully not for long.

8. Public transport measures

During the Christmas period, the frequency of public transport schedules will be increased to avoid crowds. Adequate ventilation is also guaranteed and as prevention measures talking or eating in any public transport is not allowed and the mandatory use of a facemask.

9. What about New Year’s Eve (Noche vieja) in Puerta del Sol?

Well, although it will be really bizarre, this New Year's Eve 2020 we will not see the traditional image of Puerta del Sol full of people gathered to say goodbye to the year while eating the traditional 12 grapes in time with the striking of the clock. Tradition has it that if you manage to eat all the grapes in time, you are in for a year of prosperity and good luck. The Community of Madrid decided on Friday, December 4th, to cancel all the events planned on the 31st to avoid crowds of people and to reduce the spread of the virus.

Measures have taken on a common framework against Covid, although the rules will vary across the 17 regions and the two cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

To finish, and quoting Eduald Carbonell, archaeologist and general director of the Atapuerca Foundation, since "we have not been able to have a universal protocol in the face of a pandemic situation like this", let us be responsible and comply with the measures to stop this pandemic and return to the normalcy we had before.

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