The Christmas events programme in Gran Canaria provides further proof of the extraordinary range of cultural and natural choices to be had on the island.
1. Sand nativity scenes and dreams
The Las Canteras Sand Nativity Scene in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is made out of sand and dreams. This year, Europe’s largest open air nativity scene boasts a slogan proclaiming “a child can change the world”. This is the suggestive starting point for artists of six different nationalities who have modelled the eight scenes that make up the whole display. Its creation has required nearly two million tons of sand, and many further tons of imagination and talent, the results of which are set to delight tens of thousands of visitors. This miracle is possible thanks to the able hands of experts, including American sculptor currently living in Australia, Kevin Crawford, whose efforts centre precisely on the capacity of the infant mind to imagine whole new, promising worlds.
This nativity scene also symbolizes the character of Gran Canaria as a magnet that draws in people from all around the world, as well as the fine nativity scene tradition the island boasts, which allows visitors to see highly individual settings at nearly every single municipality and at other points around the capital itself, such as the Columbus House Museum, the Cabildo government headquarters, the San Telmo Parish Hall, and the Casas Consistoriales council building. These birth scenes are also mainly built with designers’ own artisan pieces, meaning they are made by specialists who put their heart and soul into their structures.
2. Creating bubbles in the Atlantic
Tradition cannot be found written anywhere around, as it is swept away by the sea. At the magic hour, once the twelve chimes have rung out, the Atlantic waters that lap up to the coast of Gran Canaria invite those present to jump in and carry out the New Year’s bathing ritual. Champaign bubbles give way to the bubbles of people splashing around. Depending on which part of the island you find yourself in, it is likely the sky will be illuminated at that very moment by fireworks that welcoming the new year in with a bang. Water and fire, the elements that always embrace the island.
3. Talk with you hands
Gran Canaria has built its own future, in the strictest sense of the word. It is an emminently artisan island which speaks through its skilful hands, with stunning creations which amaze visitors for their beauty and on many occasions for representing the perfect balance between tradition and modernity. There is a string of Christmas fairs and markets that spring up around the island at this festive time, including highly interesting events such as the San Telmo Art and Craft Fair (between 2nd and 5th January 2019) and the Regional Craft Fair to be held between 5th and 9th December 2018 at Santa Catalina (behind the Elder and Miller buildings, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), as well as an array of local markets around the island’s municipalities. The perfect memento or gift might just be taking shape right now in the hands of a local craftsman or woman.
4. The fiesta at the land of a thousand different musical styles
Gran Canaria sounds pretty good, and has been for centuries now. Its geographical location, its rich history and the blend of different people and cultures from all around Europe, America and Africa have made the island a musical treasure chest for sounds from around the world, and a distiller that has produced its own fine melodies and genres. Christmas provides the perfect occasion to discover the rich array of sounds that Gran Canaria can tune you into. As an example of this, the Las Palmas Symphony Orchestra is offering its 7th annual Popular New Year’s Concert at the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium, a venue that plays tribute to one of the finest tenors from the 20th century, who was born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Curiously, near to the site where Kraus was born, at Plaza de Santa Ana in the historic neighbourhood of Vegueta, there will be a free Traditional Christmas Concert, courtesy of the folkloric group Los Gofiones.
5. Try some recipes with an angel’s touch
Every corner of the island has its own particular flavour. The boats that sail out at dawn from the fishing ports and the shepherds who take their flocks of sheep and goats around the island’s pasture lands are really the first stage of the long food chain that end up as extraordinary succulent fish and cheese dishes on the dining table. Christmas and New Year provide the ideal excuse for sampling Gran Canaria’s ever expanding culinary range. Around this time, bars and restaurants extend their wares, so people can try out a cuisine in which it is ever more common for past and present to come together on the same dish. Sweet flavours, meanwhile, continue to flourish on the almond trees, ably accompanying a pastry making tradition featuring marzipans, nougats and ‘trucha’ pasties filled with ‘cabello de ángel’, or angels’ hair, perhaps similar to the angels made out of the sand at Las Canteras.
6. The race in which more people are winners
Christmas is usually associated with charity. In the case of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, this comes in the shape of the HPS San Silvestre Las Palmas de Gran Canaria run, which you can sign up for for just seven euros, the whole of which will go to social organizations. Everyone’s a winner even before the event is underway, in a festive atmosphere where participants stretch themselves to help the underprivileged, over and above the competitive event. The San Silvestre race distances range from 600 metres for children to 6 kilometres for adults, at the warmest temperatures in Europe. Other alternatives for enjoying sport and the open air over Christmas time can be found at the heart of nature, both on the coast and in the interior, with free inscriptions for hikers and sunny beach days throughout the year.
7. Follow in the steps of a camel
Here in Gran Canaria, the excitement of Kings Day comes on the back of a camel. Follow its footsteps and you will find what you are looking for. In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and other locations around the island, The Wise Kings from the East will be pulling into the Naval Base harbour on 5th January, to be greeted by cheering crowds, before journeying around nearly all the island. So that is where the seven choices for Christmas, New Year and Kings Day draw to a close, although do bear in mind the most important thing: in Gran Canaria your possibilities are almost as limitless as a child’s imagination on the eve of Kings Day.