The holiday season here in Spain is on a bit of different cycle than in the US. For many North Americans, the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving, and there's basically a month and a week or so until New Year's Eve. After that, it's back to business as usual.
Here in Spain, though, things are a little different. The holiday season starts with Christmas, more or less, and the streets are filled with families and friends celebrating the season. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are big family days, and many people travel to participate in family reunions and have meals with friends. In Valencia, the street markets, or mercadillos, sell a variety of holiday-related gifts to emphasize the season. The grand finale of the holiday season is Three Kings Day, on January 6.
I've written about Christmas mercadillos before, as well as the Three Kings Parade. These events are deeply embedded in the holiday traditions here in Spain. However, this year I was able to capture some of the mercadillos near the central market here in Valencia. The area is usually quite busy, even apart from the holidays. During the holidays, there's a different kind of buzz as people are shopping with the intent of finding something special to give someone else.
The central market, or mercado central, is usually a bit of tourist stop, and for good reason. Aside from being able to find a wide variety of Spanish specialties, there's also a Bethlehem display in the center of the building (I've written about these belén displays before: here and here). Add this to the decorations that some of the stalls have implemented, and you have a very festive environment. The Bethlehem scene is incredibly detailed in miniature, and is worthy of a visit if you are in Valencia near the holidays.
Some of the traditional gifts for the new year are also on display, such as piggy banks and natural licorice (regaliz), which is supposed to be good for stopping smoking. New pajamas for opening gifts after the three kings have visited your house? Specialty candies and dried fruits? It's all here!
This is just a gratuitous shot of one of the fruit vendors in the central market. Those strawberries were really that red, and the dates were amazingly plump. I may go back after the holidays and make some purchases!
One final picture. There are often these "edges" painted on the sidewalks, and they are specifically for the stalls for the regularly-occurring mercadillos. You'll see them all over the city, and there is typically a mercadillo somewhere in Valencia every day of the week.