The Spanish Expat’s Guide to Holiday Gift-Giving

We’ve been there, too – you want to deck the halls back home with cool Spanish gifts, but budget, customs and the fact that shopping in Spain before Christmas is a nightmare, has really gotten to you. In the mad dash before the holidays in Spain, we often find ourselves scrambling for gift ideas, but fret no more.

COMO Consulting presents the Twelve Gifts of Christmas … for the Expat Who Appreciates a Bit of Tongue-in-Cheek.

Twelve Seedless Grapes for Nochevieja

We get it, 12 strokes at midnight, 12 months in a year, 12 grapes shoved into your mouth. But who had the idea of not deseeding them before sticking them into those tiny cans? If you want to continue the tradition back home, ask for seedless grapes and teeny bottles of champagne, called benjamínes.


Eleven Packs of Vacuum Sealed 100g pata negra

Jamón is ever-present on the Christmas table, but those huge ham legs are difficult to cut. Have yours deboned, sliced up nice and thin and sealed in vacuum packs. Note that transporting meat outside of the EU is technically illegal, though risk-taking travelers have used these packs, hidden between clothing, to smuggle acorn-fed jamón into the US before. Keep in mind it could be confiscated if found, and you could even be fined. But we do understand the withdrawal – boiled ham just can’t hold a candle to the good stuff.

Ten Boxes of Mantecados

Spanish Christmas sweets have probably already taken over your tiny neighborhood grocery store. Lard-based mantecados and polvorones are the Reyes Magos’ preferred treats and a fun novelty next to sugar cookies and gingerbread men. Just a word to the wise – skip the mention that they’re made from lard or if you’re not into all the full fatty goodness, try tortas de aceite, mazapan or mostachones.


Nine Ladies Dancing (on painted abanicos)

Females in the family love these hand painted fans, called abanicos. They’re easy to carry, lightweight and perfect for the ladies in your life.

Eight Sachets of Spices

Everything from paprika to saffron is produced in Spain – and this makes it a better budget option for gifts (and takes up far less space than bottles of wine or olive oil, so you win).

7 CDs of Spanish music

For the music fans in your life, give the gift of music. Try a compilation of Paco de Lucía, Spain’s most revered flamenco guitarist or make your own mix with your favorite Spanish pop tunes to add a little spice to your get-togethers back home.


6 ceramic Nativity Figurines

Or splurge and get the whole village! Spanish nativity sets, known as belénes, take over store display windows,  school foyers and even the streets as Christmas nears. Bring a little holiday cheer home by getting the basic set for your loved ones – the Holy Family, the ox, the cow and the caganer, a cheeky man pooping in the corner that’s often based on political figures or sports stars.

FIVEEEEEEE Liters of Liquid Gold

Olive oil is mass-produced in Spain (just ask anyone allergic to olive blossoms in the springtime), and the quality stuff makes a great gift for anyone who loves to cook. Specialty brands even include gorgeous packaging. But the best part? There’s no limit to how much you can take into North America, so olive oil for all!

Four Pairs of Espartos

No shoe is more comfortable or more fashion (say it with a Spanish lisp) than the rope-soled esparto. European sizes are goofy, but these handmade gifts are a big hit for both genders, and are usually durable enough to last a few seasons. You know, because we non-Spaniards never walk anywhere anyway.


Three Bottles of Delicious Spanish Wine

If you’re headed home for the holidays, know your limits – and we’re not talking tolerance. Customs will usually only let you bring back a maximum of three bottles of wine, though more than a liter could incur some taxes. If you do pack them in your checked bags, make sure they’re nice and cozy for the transatlantic flight, then trick your loved ones into thinking it’s crazy expensive and that you’ve become a wine snob while in Europe (and don’t forget to declare them, or potentially face a $10,000 fine).

Two Décimas for El Gordo

Spain’s annual Christmas lottery is a social event in itself – you’ll see people crowded into bars to watch the children of San Ildefonso School sing out lottery numbers. The grand prize is a cool 4 million, though there are several smaller prizes to claim as well.

The décimos are pricey – around 20 euros a piece – so consider buying with your coworkers or a group of friends. Schools, organizations and even bars will buy a whole series of tickets, then sell them off to patrons or members. If one of the numbers wins a prize, everyone splits the pot.

And a Cesta de Navidad

Why settle for just one of these gifts when El Corte Inglés takes care of it all for you… even the gift wrapping!  Starting at 30 euros and reaching preposterous proportions, these cestas or baskets are specially prepared with a gourmet gamut of Spanish products – wines, cheeses, preserves and meats, oh my! – Put it all in a festive wicker basket, cover with cellophane and top with a bow. Christmas is served.

You could even do a DIY Christmas basket full of local treats. Just remember customs limits if you’re sending them abroad or carrying them home!

No matter what, having you home for the holidays will be the best gift for your loved ones. And if all else fails, keychains and t-shirts will do the trick.

The Expat's Guide to

Can’t make it home for the holidays but want to share the magic of Spain with family and friends? Try, an online store with a variety of Spanish specialities.

What are you planning on giving your loved ones for the holidays this year?

Author: Cat Gaa

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