Christmas is a time to take a look back. To remember those who are gone and be grateful for those who are with us. These dates, when nostalgia and joy coexist, have witnessed a good number of historical events and circumstances that, without a doubt, have defined our future. On this occasion, we bring you 11 Christmas events that took place in Spain, from the birth of famous people to tragic historical events such as earthquakes or fires.
The day before Christmas Eve was born in Moguer (Huelva) the man who would become one of the greatest exponents of Spanish literature. Juan Ramón Jiménez was a poet attached to the Generation of ’27, along with other writers such as Federico García Lorca and Rafael Alberti. Among his works, Platero and I stands out, which revolves around the life of a donkey called Platero.
The Royal Alcazar of Madrid was located where today stands the Royal Palace of Madrid, in the Plaza de Oriente. In order to locate its origins, we must go back to the 9th century, when an Islamic fortress was built. After the Spanish reconquest, it became the residence of the royal family until a fire destroyed it on Christmas Eve in 1734. It was so big that only rubble was left. Four years later, construction would begin on the current Royal Palace.
In December 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on the island now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, naming it La Española. On 25 December he built the first European settlement on American soil. He built the so-called Fuerte Navidad, made from the remains of the ship Santa María, which had been damaged after hitting a coral reef. The following year, Columbus returned to Fuerte Navidad and found it destroyed.
One of the most important Christmas historical events from a religious point of view has to do with the birth of Ignatius of Loyola. Originally from the town of Azpeitia in Gipuzkoa, he was a soldier and later gave himself up to church life. So much so that he founded the Society of Jesus. This order of Jesuits is, in fact, the most important Catholic network in the world.
The Day of the Wise Men in 1492 would mark a before and after in the history of Spain. Several weeks earlier, in November, Boabdil, the last Muslim emir of Granada, had met with the Catholic Monarchs to agree on the capitulation. However, it would not be until 6 January that Isabella and Ferdinand would triumphantly enter Granada after the Sultan’s recession.
The Court of the Holy Inquisition entered Spain at the hands of the Catholic Monarchs, who decided to found this institution in 1478 with the aim of maintaining the Catholic faith throughout the territory. The Holy Inquisition was linked to persecution, repression and bonfires. It is, in fact, one of the darkest historical events in Spanish history. After almost four centuries in force, it was abolished on 5 January 1813.
An earthquake took away the joy of Christmas, precisely on Christmas Day. It was 9 p.m. when the ground began to shake. The epicentre was located in the town of Arenas del Rey in Granada, although it was also felt in the provinces of Málaga, Jaén and Almería. In just 20 seconds it caused 745 deaths and around 1,500 injured. More than a hundred aftershocks in the following days followed this earthquake of magnitude between 6.2 and 6.5 on the Richter scale.
Did you know that the tradition of eating grapes on New Year’s Eve is over a century old? It seems to be a tradition imported from our French neighbours. This custom of the French bourgeoisie welcomed the new year with grapes and a toast with champagne. Little by little, the Spanish adopted this tradition until, finally, it was fully implemented due to a surplus of grapes in the 1909 harvest. From then on, it is usual that the last 12 chimes of the clock are accompanied by 12 lucky grapes.
The famous author of Niebla (“Mist”) died on the last day of the year when the Civil War broke out in Spain. This fact could not be left out of the Christmas celebrations as far as literature is concerned, given that Miguel de Unamuno is one of the greatest exponents of the Generation of ’98 and his death marked an important historical event in Spain. He was rector of the University of Salamanca and, in fact, is often remembered for his speech against the national side. “You will win, but you will not convince,” he said.
Christmas Day in 1983 was marked by sad news: the death of Joan Miró. This Catalan painter and sculptor is considered one of the main figures of Surrealism, a movement that emerged in Europe after the First World War. His work is distinguished by its vivid colours; as well as by the geometric forms that, at times, convey a dreamlike universe.
1 January 2002 was the date chosen for the introduction of the euro; the new currency adopted by the European Union. The new generations may not remember these historical events, but the single currency lived with the extinct peseta for a few months until it was finally withdrawn from the market. Today, it is the official currency of 19 countries.