Celebrating the Holidays in Bilbao

Once November 1st hits, it seems like all the sudden there are Thanksgiving and Christmas ads and reminders everywhere in the United States. Holiday spirit is always in the air, with Christmas music being played everywhere and people gearing up for the winter holiday season. Well, this year, I obviously have not been in the United States for this. I didn’t really even experience fall the way I’m used to it, because Bilbao has such a moderate climate that there is still greenery everywhere. I also have yet to see any snow here in Spain which is also not a surprise to me. What does crack me up though, is how once the temperature drops below 60 degrees here, people are in all out winter gear…like I mean pouffy, knee length winter coats, scarfs that are almost big enough to be a blanket, and boots that could track through a snow blizzard. 

Spain, however, has it’s own holiday spirit. It isn’t the same as the United States, and in my opinion the differences don’t make it any better or worse than in the US, it’s just different. For starters, Spain doesn’t have Thanksgiving. I mean that’s pretty obvious. Not sure why any other country would celebrate the Mayflower sailing over and whatever the rest of the story is (history isn’t my strong suite lol). But despite there being no Thanksgiving here, my American friends and I decided to have a friendsgiving! You don’t realize how easy the US makes it to buy Thanksgiving ingredients until you start shopping for Thanksgiving ingredients in Spain. In the US, the grocery stores usually pile them all in an aisle, but here in Spain, it’s impossible to find certain ingredients. POR EJEMPLO, for Thanksgiving, one of the dishes I was in charge of was sweet potato casserole. What usually goes on top of sweet potato casserole? White marshmallows. Emphasis on the word “white”. Spain doesn’t have plain white marshmallows, not even in the Corte Ingles grocery store (the grocery store that carries more american food, most notorious for it’s peanut butter). So I had to improvise…Image

Two bags of “Chamallows” shaped like Smurfs, a large pair of cooking scissors and about 20 minutes, and I finally had white marshmallows! Other than that small hurdle, our friendsgiving was a huge success and one of my favorite nights thus far in Bilbao. We all invited our flatmates and friends, and for most of the people there, it was their first “Thanksgiving”! My favorite part of the evening was when we went around in a circle and everyone said what they were thankful for. Most people spoke in their native tongue, and even though I couldn’t understand everything, everyone was saying, it was still a really cool moment. Because we have friends from Spain, France, Italy, Great Britain and the USA, there were a bunch of different languages being spoken the whole night and I loved it. Although it was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, that night I found that I had made a new family in Bilbao :). 


On the US’s “Black Friday”, I did see something really interesting in Spain. I was up early, grabbing a coffee before school at a cafe where they always play the news in the morning. Anyways, I saw an interesting story on the US’s “Black Friday”, and I have to say, it was a litttttle embarrassing. From the outside, in other countries, Black Friday looks dumb. People shivering in lines at 2am, waiting to get something a little cheaper after eating a huge dinner. Lol. NO PUEDO.

Anyways, shortly after friendsgiving, on December 1st, the holiday spirit came to life in Bilbao with lights up all over the city! There are trees up in Indauxtu and Casco Viejo, with shimmering lights on the main shopping street, Gran Via, and beautiful lights draped along all the streets in all the neighborhoods of Bilbao. Image

Seeing the lights around the city really got me in the holiday spirit! Not to mention that the first weekend of December was a Puente weekend, aka 3 day weekend, so I didn’t have school on Friday. Two of my friends and I jetted off to Madrid for the weekend! After experience the Christmas markets in Madrid and their holiday season, I’ve been back in Bilbao comparing it. I went out into the city yesterday with my friend to check out the Christmas markets here. Well, that was a fail because we forgot about the siesta! But we did end up making it to a few after the siesta was over and for the most part, they are pretty similar to Madrid. Less people and less variety, but all in all, the same things. Lots of jewelry, leather, scarfs, bread, chocolate, etc. Along with checking out the markets and lights, no Christmas season would be complete without a white elephant gift exchange and a party! Last night, I got together with my friends for our Christmas party!Image

There were a lot of funny moments during the evening. With different languages being spoken, there is always miscommunications and mispronunciations and it always gives everybody a few laughs. One of the food highlights (all the food was great) was my Italian friend’s Tiramisu. So so so good. I fell asleep dreaming about it. My flatmate is also Italian and I have come to the conclusion that Italian people get an extra cooking gene that nobody else gets, so there food will always be better and there is nothing you can do about it. 


I obviously do not have any complaints about this holiday season in Bilbao. I think I’m finally settled here and am not experiencing culture shock anymore (I mean, I still have my moments lol). And, it’s hard to not enjoy being somewhere as beautiful as Basque Country where you can go on a morning jog in December, in 65 degree weather, along the coast and have this as the view….


1 thought on “Celebrating the Holidays in Bilbao

  1. I’m so happy with how we’ve done the holidays in Bilbao! So many good memories. Also I am inwardly laughing about the biggest “lost in translation” moment of last night….
    Loved your view of Black Friday. Americans are just so weird sometimes. At 2 a.m. on Black Friday this year I was tossing and turning in bed on the verge of puking after eating Thanksgiving dinner at 9 p.m…..oh spain, your eating times, NO PUEDO.

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