Instead of fir trees there are neon and multi-coloured lights shining brilliantly. Fewer Father Christmas figures climb in and out of peoples’ houses but there are far more nativity scenes. The festival has a more religious and less commercial flavour and there is a distinct lack of snow.
In fact it’s still just about possible to swim in the sea, especially around midday, when the sun has warmth and strength. It’s a pleasure to be outside during this time and walking along the promenade or cycling through the Turia gardens past tropical trees and lush, bright flowers is a joy.
Unlike in London, where Christmas started in October, the Spanish festive season respects boundaries and traditions. The main day for presents and celebrations is the Day of the Kings, held on 6 January, to celebrate the visit of the Magi to Jesus in his crib.
The best place to enjoy the nativity scenes in Valencia is in the Mercado Colon, a spectacular Modernisme market, once used to sell fruit and vegetables and now the setting for chintzy cafes and swanky restaurants. Its nativity is free for all to see however and so is the gigantic Christmas tree, adorned with baubles and trinkets.
The tree strikes just the right festive note and is the perfect place to get in the Christmas spirit with a glass of Horchata – the traditional Valencian drink, made with tiger nuts – and a plate of Fartons, sugary sponge fingers designed for dipping inside it.
The Mercado Colon is a classy establishment, strangely comforting, where brass bands play on Sundays and it’s even possible to eat Sushi. However, if it’s Christmas tat you’re after, there’s still plenty on offer, particularly in the plethora of shops run by hard working Chinese people. Their windows are stuffed with cheap toys and garish Santas supplementing the usual tantalising array of pet food bowls, Tupperware and hair slides.
Best of all though is the Christmas tree in the Plaza de la Cruz de Canyemelar, which decorates The Trundler’s beloved El Cabanyal. This is the first time there has been such a dazzling sight in this spot for many years and it’s a joy to behold, a beacon of hope for the future of the neighbourhood and the wider world too.