In Spanish, Christmas Eve is called "La Noche Buena," which translates to "The Good Night." In Spain, the holiday is celebrated with a large family feast eaten late in the evening and it can last a couple hours. Some families attend midnight mass before or after, although many are still finishing dinner around the table at midnight! In Spain, Christmas Eve is a time for celebrating in neighborhood bars and cafes and around the table with family and friends.
It is not a time for gift exchanges or Santa Claus. That waits until January 6th which is Epiphany, another religious holiday.
Here is a typical Spanish Christmas menu for Christmas Eve dinner. It features several courses starting with some simple tapas or appetizers, first course, main course, dessert, and coffee or after-dinner drinks. None of the recipes are terribly difficult to prepare -- pick and choose what you like to add some Spanish flavor to your Christmas table!
Tapas or Appetizers
- Jamón, Queso y Chorizo - Ham, cheese, and Spanish chorizo sausage: This easy tapa recipe uses jamón, queso y chorizo – ham, cheese and Spanish chorizo on bread. It’s a great way to start the dinner, served with a nice red wine or two. There are many good quality Spanish wines, especially from La Rioja, Ribera del Duero or Jumilla regions. Read about Wines from La Rioja, Wines from Ribera del Duero and Top Spanish Wines Under $20.
- : This recipe is very easy and full of flavor. The langostinos or prawns are boiled, then served with a slightly spicy salsa rosa or pink sauce made with mayonnaise, catsup, and Tabasco. If you prefer a sauce without mayonnaise, try Spanish Romesco sauce made with roasted red peppers, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Either sauce goes well with shrimp or any seafood.
Need more ideas for Spanish appetizers? Top Spanish Tapas, Recipes for the Most Popular Tapas in Spain has our top picks for Spanish tapas.
Primer Plato or First Course
This first course is just a "warm-up" for courses to come, so leave room for the next course! Choose one or more of the following dishes.
- Sopa de pescado y marisco – fish and shellfish soup: Spanish Sopa de Pescado y Marisco is a classic soup for the holidays. Shellfish is always part of the menu at any Spanish celebration and Christmas is no different. This soup is a wonderful start to a meal. Serve it piping hot with French bread slices.
- Try if you prefer a creamy soup rather than a broth-based one. It is full of "carabineros" (large shrimp) and fish, mixed with fish stock, half-and-half, and tarragon.
- : White asparagus is very delicate in texture and flavor since these soft spears have never been touched by sunlight. Spaniards absolutely devour it! Try our recipe for white asparagus with oil and vinegar.
- : Try this salad made simply with endives, tomatoes, oil, and vinegar. It's a great choice for a winter salad.
- Spanish romesco seafood pasta salad: Traditional Spanish flavors combine in a new seafood salad. Romesco Sauce is classic Spanish cuisine made with roasted red peppers, almonds, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Add a bit of mayonnaise to it, and toss with cooked shrimp and pasta to make a rich and flavorful salad for any time of year.
Plato Principal - Main Course
In Spain, the next course is called segundo plato, the "second" course. Beef, lamb, poultry or game is served with rice or potatoes for this filling course.
- Cordero asado - roast lamb: Roast lamb will not disappoint you or your guests at Christmas dinner. It is far less work than roasting a turkey or duck and is much tastier. Haven’t you had turkey already this holiday season? Try Cordero Asado - Roast Lamb this year.
- Patatas fritas – home-fried potatoes: If you are serving roast lamb, home-fried potatoes are a must! Lightly fried in extra virgin olive oil, you’ll always wish you had fried a couple more potatoes because they will disappear fast. Patatas Fritas – Home-Fried Potatoes
- Ensalada mixta – mixed green salad: Like most big Spanish meals, Christmas dinner is filled with some rich dishes. To balance that out, a fresh green salad is always at the ready. This salad compliments the heavier dishes that are passed around the holiday table.
Postre - Dessert
After a brief pause to catch your breath and clear the table, dinner continues with dessert or postre. At Christmas time that means plates of delicious Spanish treats like:
Want more Spanish treats? Spanish Christmas Sweets!
Spanish Cava, Brandy and More
After the dinner dishes are cleared, a hot cup of espresso coffee and/or a small glass of Spanish sherry brandy like Cardenal Mendoza or Lepanto brands, anise liqueur or Licor 43 can be raised. Besides, you need something to wash all those cookies down!