One of the most typical traditions in Spain is that of Belenes. A Belen (Bethlehem) is a large display, whose main feature is a nativity scene although the designers put in far more than this and is it common to have a whole village, complete with balcksmiths, farrriers and roman centurions. You will not just find them in churches but other public places from town halls to banks. It is also a popular tradition to design your Belen at home and the Christmas market stalls offer a huge range of figures and models.
Every year many cities on the costa del sol organise Belen competitions with each trying to out do the others in putting on the most imaginitive and spectacular display.
In Malaga alone there are around 60 belenes this year. You will often see families going to visit a number of the scenes, no doubt disagreeing on which is the best. Tracking down the displays can be a really enjoyable way to explore some out of the way corners of the city and the task of hunting them down is made easier by a map published on the website belenes.malaga.eu.
Two of our favourites are at the town hall (calle Cervantes 4), probably the biggest and best known in the city, and another classic at the cathedral (calle Molino lario 9).
Children in particular may be more drawn to the “belenes vivientes” where the nativity scene is acted out by local people helped by animals in the manger. This type of display is a speciality in Cadiz province and the best known are in Arcos de la Frontera, Tarifa, Cartama, and Ojen. Check before you go to these as times vary and some are only open for limited periods.
Are you looking forward to the belenes this year?!