10 Amusing Facts About Spanish Culture and Traditions
Spain is a country full of interesting history, colorful traditions, and intriguing cultural facts. Many aspects of Spanish culture and tradition help Spain stand apart from the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries. Let’s see 10 facts about Spanish culture and traditions that will amuse and may even shock you!
1. Spain is the Only European Country With Cities on African Soil
Ceuta and Melilla are the only two European cities that reside outside of Europe. Sharing soil with the Moroccan border, these cities are small bastions that lie at the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. Ceuta is located to the right of the African side of the Gibraltar Strait, and Melilla is located further east, closer to the border with Argelia. These famous cities are at the center of controversy for the huge immigration waves that have been passing through them for a long time. Groups of hundreds of people made the pilgrimage from all over Africa to get a shot at getting as refugees into Europe through these two towns. They have been a part of Spain for centuries and they are considered an immovable part of Spanish territory, much like the Canary Islands but with less touristic appeal.
2. Soccer Represents a Century-Long Rivalry
Spain is the home of two of the most popular fútbol teams in the world: Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. These two teams have been competing for centuries, nipping at each other’s heels and hosting some of the best players the world has ever seen. Currently, they each have an accumulated total of 96 wins each! That’s as tight as it can get for a rivalry that has existed for almost 100 years. The fierce competition has inspired countries outside of Spain to pick a team to root for, elevating these teams to international renown.
Check these out for more details on soccer in Spanish-speaking countries:
- Make New Friends Through Sports: Fútbol vs. Football
- Feuding Fans of Fútbol: Soccer Culture in Latin America.
3. Spanish Writers are Legendary Pioneers
Literature is an important aspect of Spanish culture and traditions. In the history of Spain, there are many pioneers. One of them is the oldest preserved epic poem El Cantar del Mío Cid, which tells the story of the hero El Cid and the reconquest of Spain from the Moors. This poem is so popular that there’s even an idiom related to it! The English equivalent for “The coast is clear” is “No hay Moros en la costa”, which directly references the Moors and their invasion of Spain a long time ago. Another pioneer of Spanish literature is Miguel de Cervantes, whom you may already know about from his epic, two-volume series of Don Quijote de la Mancha. One of my personal favorite pieces I’ve ever read, this famous book tells the story of an old man who goes crazy from reading so many knight stories and sets out to the world to make one of his own. This is considered the first modern novel, and one of the pinnacles of literature. You will without a doubt find that most if not all Spanish people will be familiar with and proud of this aspect of their heritage.
4. Spain Is Home to Many Languages
Regions of Spain’s population speaks many different languages and dialects depending on the location. Of them, 5 languages are considered co-official in their regions, and in order from most spoken to least, they are:
- Catalan (9.8 million speakers)
- Valencian (4.1 million speakers)
- Galician (2.4 million speakers)
- Basque (751, 500 speakers)
- Aranese (5,000 speakers)
Despite these co-official languages, a strong 99% of Spaniards can speak Spanish, with varying accents. (Consider the difference between American English and British English to get an idea of variations in accent within Spain.)
5. The Spanish Tooth Fairy Is a Mouse
In Spanish culture, you won’t find a coin under your pillow from the tooth fairy. Instead, the tooth fairy’s hairy coworker—also known as El Ratón de los Dientes or El Ratón Pérez —takes over the gift-for-tooth exchange in Spanish-speaking regions of the world. His story, like many legends, has a few theoretical origins, but an overwhelming consensus assumes that Jesuit priest Luis Coloma wrote the story to help king Alphonse XIII cope with the loss of his first tooth at age 8. The story was recounted and shared so often that it even made it to Latin America through Spain’s colonial conquests. Interestingly, there’s a popular Argentine film from 2006 that regales us with the adventures of this little money-giving mouse.
6. The Most Passionate Traditional Dances Originated in Spain
Dancing is perhaps one of the most expressive forms of Spanish culture and traditions. Many images of passion and love are nurtured by dances such as Flamenco, Fandango, Jota, Copla, Paso Doble, and Muñeira. These traditional dances are often accompanied by beautiful garments and exotic instruments such as castanets. Watching people perform these dances will surely light a fire in your heart and will make you want to move your feet just like they do. Their influence even made it into pop culture and you might not even notice, but the dancing girl emoji is actually a woman wearing a Flamenco dress and striking a pose that’s very familiar to this folkloric dance!
7. The Unique Tradition of La Tomatina
The last Wednesday of August in the municipality of Buñol in Valencia, a piece of ham is set at the top of a very tall post in the town square. The famous festival of La Tomatina begins when someone climbs this pole and grabs the ham from the top. Then, at around 11 in the morning, six trucks with around 150 tons of tomatoes slowly roll into town giving tomatoes to the 22,000 attendees so that they can take part in the biggest tomato fight in the world. These tomatoes are specifically bred and harvested for this festival, and after hours of pelting your friends with tomatoes, the streets and attendees are left squeaky clean from the acidic properties of this red fruit. This is without a doubt one of the most amazing things you’ll find in Spain, and something you won’t want to miss if you have the chance. It’s a strange way to have a religious celebration, but it’s very interesting nonetheless. Always remember to wear a pair of gloves and goggles, and make sure to squish the tomatoes before throwing them.
8. ¡Tomemos una siesta!
There’s no feeling in this world that comes close to that of a good nap. They are so great that they became a part of Spanish culture and traditions! So much so that many businesses and restaurants take a couple of hours off each day for their employees to take a siesta and snooze off to recover energy during the afternoon. That’s a tradition I would love to take part in, to be honest! However, the rhythm and demands of the modern era mean that this cultural aspect has dwindled in the last few years and it’s limited to a certain kind of business, such as restaurants or people who are self-employed.
9. Food Services Have Strict Ordering Schedules
Spanish culture and traditions share many interesting and different dishes to delight and surprise you, such as tapas, and paella, and morcilla. Aside from the fascinating cuisine, many places continue to close during daily hours of siesta, which has resulted in a strict window for obtaining food. The best traditional food in Spain is served at specific times and sells out rather quickly, so if you have a specific food in mind, make sure you’re standing in line at the right time! To ease the pressure, ask the locals which restaurants they recommend and what time is best to show up.
10. Religion is Intertwined with Culture
As you’ve likely noticed, Spanish culture and traditions are still steeped in religion. For example, Día de Reyes is a Spanish equivalent to Christmas where the three wise men leave gifts for well-behaved kids who set their shoes in the window sill the night before. Another celebration includes Semana Santa.
Aside from celebrations, Spain’s famous architecture is dominated by religious origins. With over 90 different cathedrals existing within Spain’s borders, it’s no wonder that over 60% of Spainiards go to church regularly.
Understanding Spanish Culture and Traditions
Spaniards have many positive qualities that bind them together as a nation. Whether you’re taking a nap, having a snack, or throwing it at your friends during a festival, it’s inspiring to learn about the Spanish culture and traditions that influence Spanish people’s everyday lives.
Personally, I’m looking forward to learning the different dances in Spain and picking up a few moves! What about you? What was your favorite tradition on this list? Do you have any traditions that weren’t mentioned and you’d like to share with us? Leave a comment on this post so we can get the conversation going. ¡Hasta la próxima!
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