11 historical events in Spain that took place during the Christmas season

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.

23 December 1881: Juan Ramón Jiménez is born

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.

A statue of donkey Platero, by Juan Ramón Jiménez

Platero and I is Juan Ramón Jiménez’s most outstanding work | Shutterstock

24 December 1734: a fire destroys Madrid’s Royal Alcázar

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.

The alcázar was destroyed by a fire, an important historical event, and now the Royal Palaca stands there

The Royal Alcazar of Madrid was located where the Royal Palace now stands | Shutterstock

25 December 1492: Christopher Columbus

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.

Monument of Cristóbal Colón in Barcelona, honoring the historical event of his arrival

Christopher Columbus created the first European settlement in the Americas on December 25 | Shutterstock

25 December 1491: Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, is born

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.

Portrait of Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus and played a key role in other historical events

Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus | Shutterstock

6 January 1492: the Catholic Monarchs arrive in Granada after the surrender of Boabdil

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.

Relieve de los Reyes Católicos

The Catholic Monarchs triumphantly entered Granada on January 6, 1492 after Boabdil’s surrender | Shutterstock

5 January 1813: the Court of the Holy Inquisition is abolished in Spain

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.

Pintura de la Inquisición

The Holy Inquisition was in force in Spain for several centuries | Shutterstock

25 December 1884: an earthquake triggers panic in Andalusia

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.

Imagen del terremoto de Andalucía de finales del siglo XIX

A tremendous earthquake struck Andalusia at the end of the 19th century | Shutterstock

31 December 1909: the tradition of eating the 12 grapes begins

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.

Tradición de uvas

The tradition of eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve dates back to 1909 | Shutterstock

31 December 1936: Miguel de Unamuno died

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.

Universidad de Salamanca

Miguel de Unamuno was Rector of the University of Salamanca | Shutterstock

25 December 1983: Joan Miró, surrealist painter, dies

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.

Obra de Joan Miró

Joan Miró’s work is unique | Shutterstock

1 January 2002: the euro enters into circulation

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.

Símbolo del euro

The euro entered into circulation in Spain on 1 January 2002 | Shutterstock

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