Celebrate Christmas in Andorra with Tio de Nadal

As the snowflakes gently settle on the pine branches and the Christmas lights glisten on the pristine snow, you get caught up in the magic and wonder that is Christmas. And there’s nothing quite like celebrating the festive season in a winter wonderland to truly fill yourself with holiday cheer.

Tucked away in the heart of the Pyrenees, Andorra is the perfect mountain getaway to spend your Christmas. Set among a stunning backdrop of snow-covered peaks, the country comes alive with Christmas cheer while embracing the festive spirit.

So, if you’re wondering what to do and where to travel this festive season, keep reading. Our post gives you all the details for a merry itinerary to fill your Christmas holidays with joy. Read on to discover how to celebrate the perfect Christmas , where you’ll:

  1. Attend the Christmas Markets
  2. Take part in local traditions; Tió de Nadal, the caganer and Nativity scenes
  3. Visit Father Christmas
  4. Feast on a delicious Christmas Eve dinner
  5. Hit the slopes for Christmas Day skiing
  6. Witness the procession of the Three Kings

Christmas Markets in Andorra

Dating as far back as the Late Middle Ages, Christmas markets originated in Germany yet are now held in many countries across Europe – Andorra included. Different towns throughout the country host their own Christmas markets during December, with markets in Andorra la Vella , La Massana, Ordino, Encamp and Sant Julià de Lòria.

Typically, you’ll find stalls offering traditional Christmas decorations and ornaments, assorted crafts and artisan products, as well as food stalls such as creperias. Often there is entertainment, including performances by choirs, and activities for the kids, such as traditional games and a temporary ice skating rink.

Plaça de les Fontetes is one such market in La Massana — it’s a cosy space with wooden huts and it offers the little ones a skating rink so they can enjoy to their hearts’ content while adults indulge in gastronomic, cultural and craft offerings at the different stalls.

While most markets are held over a weekend, the Christmas Village in Andorra la Vella runs the entire month of December. The hustle and bustle of people filling up the streets while shopping for Christmas decorations adds to the merry cheer that fills the Andorran air.

Andorra la Vella Christmas Village

The Andorra la Vella Christmas Village kicks off with a bang; with a parade, fireworks, the switching on of the lights and a choral concert to celebrate the official opening of the village. Taking part across the country’s capital, Christmas festivities feature at Plaça Guillemó, the heart of the old town centre, along Avinguda Meritxell, Plaça de la Rotonda, and the middle of The Shopping Mile. A full map of the Christmas Village can be viewed here.

Yet, it is the market at Plaça del Poble that really captures the Christmas spirit. With high-quality artisan products available from the traditional stalls, as well as gastronomic delights and sweets for the kids from Caga Tió, the market is beautifully decorated and illuminated to highlight the magic and colour of the festive season.

The many twinkling shops that you pass by even have a little competition to see who has the most creative display of them all. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays it also hosts the Christmas Fair with many performances.

Other highlights of the Christmas Village include the Magic Post Office, the skating rink and 30 metre toboggan run, and the Tunnel of Light and Sound – with daily shows not to be missed.

For all the details of the Andorra la Vella Christmas Village, check out the official website.

Ornaments in a Christmas market stall
Andorra’s Christmas markets offer a wide variety of decorations, ornaments and artisan products.

Local Christmas Traditions in Andorra

Christmas in this city goes far beyond shopping in quaint streets and visiting ski resorts atop snowy mountains. The best way to truly immerse yourself in everything Andorra has to offer is by experiencing its local traditions.

While the more well-known Christmas symbols and traditions can be found around the principality, Andorra has several long-standing local traditions that you may not have come across before. Also popular in Catalunya, these customs are representative of the country’s close ties with its neighbour.

Tió de Nadal

As the most popular Christmas character in the region, you will be able to find Tió de Nadal (or Caga Tió) all over the place during the festive season. A small wooden log, he features two wooden legs to prop up his cheery face and wears a traditional red Catalan hat – the barretina. He also has a blanket draped over his back to keep him warm.

Bringing gifts to Andorran children long before Father Christmas was, Caga Tió is brought into the house on December 8th and then ‘fed’ and looked after by the children each night.

On Christmas Eve the children are taken into the kitchen, traditionally to say a prayer or warm their beating sticks by the fire, while their mother places small gifts under the log’s blanket. The children re-enter the room to sing the traditional song whilst tapping the log with their sticks. Caga Tió then ‘poops out’ small gifts for the children, including chocolates, turróns, neules, cookies and other sweets.

The Caganer

Continuing with the poo-related Christmas traditions, the caganer is a figurine squatting with its pants down to defecate. Traditionally depicted as a peasant with the customary barretina, in more modern times it can take the form of a politician, footballer or other famous figure.

Said to bring fertility and good luck, the caganer can be found tucked away in the back of some Nativity scenes. where kids embark on a treasure hunt to find it.

Nativity Scenes

There are a number of Nativity scenes erected around the country, each created with pride and great care to uphold this long-standing Catholic tradition. Larger than the manger scenes typically found in English-speaking countries, these pessebres often encompass the city of Bethlehem and the surrounding countryside.

Two of the most noteworthy Nativities are:

  • The giant Nativity scene in Canillo, which is composed of over 200 life-size figurines. Lining the streets throughout the village, it depicts the best-known scenes from the Nativity story.
  • The Living Nativity Scene in Escaldes-Engordany, which is one of the main Christmas attractions of the parish. Starring over 120 actors and many local residents, it is performed three times across two days in December.

To really appreciate the craftsmanship and detail, it’s best to visit the splendid Nativity scenes by daylight. Not only can you take your time admiring the figurines but the sunlight helps as things can get rather chilly.

Christmas Nativity Scene
Nativity scenes, or pessebres, can be found in many of the towns around the country.

Father Christmas

Andorra may be tucked away in the mountains, but it doesn’t stop Father Christmas and his elves from visiting the principality during the festive season. There are different options for you and your family to see the big man in red, ranging from public visits to more private encounters.

Santa Claus typically visits each of the parròquies around the country on Christmas Eve. He can be found parading on the streets in the early evening, arriving in a sleigh, on horseback or in a chariot, along with his elves. After greeting the children, they are able to pass on their letters and requests to him.

At Vallnord – Pal Arinsal ski resort, you can arrange for a special encounter with Father Christmas. In addition to meeting the man himself and being able to personally hand him their Christmas letters, your children will take part in activities and have a snack, all the while enjoying holiday music and a magical, festive atmosphere.

Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a merry feast of delicious foods and treats. In Andorra, it’s tradition to have the Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, December 24th, before attending the midnight mass. Having your celebratory meal the night before is especially great for those who want to spend Christmas skiing, as you’ll be free to hit the slopes all day.

While a Christmas holiday in a foreign location means you won’t have your own kitchen to cook up a festive feast, it doesn’t mean you have to go without. Many of the restaurants and hotels around the country host dinners or feature special menus for Christmas, offering you the very best of Andorran and other countries’ cuisines to make your meal truly delicious.

From scrumptious meat to decadent desserts, the influence of its neighbouring countries has heavily impacted Andorra’s cuisine; something that is apparent with every bite you take. A heartwarming dish that you can try during Christmas is Escudella, also known as Andorra’s national dish. Aside from the delicately prepared savoury dishes, Christmas pudding is a crowd-favourite, and don’t forget the Christmas crackers and cookies too.

Our very own El Cabin is no exception, with two spectacular Christmas menus to choose from when you have a booking for larger groups.

Christmas Skiing

To make your Christmas holiday especially memorable, why not spend the 25th on the slopes?
Andorra is, after all, a ski-lovers paradise thanks to its majestic snow clad mountains and picturesque view. So it’s no surprise that celebrating Christmas out on the powdery white slopes is a popular activity that all tourists enjoy.

Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding or tobogganing with the little ones, the ski resorts across the country are ready and waiting to celebrate Christmas Day with you and your family.

You can visit Grandvalira which is a popular destination for tourists and offers a number of après ski options. With great snow conditions, typically gorgeous weather and plenty of on-mountain dining options, you can spend the whole day having fun and creating magical Christmas memories to cherish for a lifetime.

And if you happen to be in Arinsal or Soldeu, you can bask in the joys of the many ski schools awaiting you. Wherever you go, you’ll find a merry spirit and plenty of family-friendly activities–regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned skier.

To give your family more time together Christmas morning, and avoid the rush and hassle of collecting ski equipment, book your rentals ahead of time. Book online with us and save 20%!

Spend Christmas in Andorra skiing
Treat you and your family to a special Christmas day on the slopes. Image: Ticiano Tozzini, via Grandvalira

The Three Kings

If you’re lucky enough to extend your Christmas holidays into January, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re in for another day of celebrations and gift giving. The festival of the Three Kings, held 12 days after Christmas on January 6th , is a religious feast day acknowledging the visitation of the three kings to baby Jesus.

Traditionally, this is the day when Andorran and Spanish families give their gifts to one another. However, many families now give a smaller gift on Christmas Day, too.

Around the country, there are numerous processions and parades for the three kings. After being announced by their royal page, the kings typically parade the streets handing out sweets and collecting Christmas letters from the kids. With parades happening on different days and at different times, you’ll have many opportunities to witness this tradition in action – check out all the dates and details here.

Experience Your Best Christmas In Andorra

Christmas here is a magical time of year, with traditional markets, entertaining activities and beautiful displays to get you in the festive spirit. If you want a truly memorable Christmas holiday, with the added bonus of fun on the slopes and set among the breathtaking mountains, then visit Andorra this holiday season!

Waking up to a white Christmas amidst this magical town becomes even more exciting when you have a warm abode to call your own. Our friendly staff can help to make your Christmas dreams come true, with comfortable accommodation, ski equipment rentals, and recommendations of things to do in Andorra in winter. Contact us today for more information.

Feature Image by Cyrielle Marlet CC BY-ND 2.0