Barcelona: experience a Catalonian Christmas Swimming in chilly seas, feeding painted logs and presents in January – Christmas in Barcelona is an unforgettable experience! The capital of Spain’s fiercely proud Catalonia region offers a unique blend of art, architecture, sand, sea and even alpine snow. Iconic landmarks designed by one of its most famous sons, Antoni Gaudi, can be found at every turn, including the world-famous Sagrada Familia church. And how many major European cities can boast not only a sweeping sandy beach but ski resorts just a short drive away too? Don’t be fooled by Barcelona’s location on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. There’s more to this city than just fun in the sun. Head here during December and January for a Christmas like no other. Once the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, festive celebrations begin winding down in the UK. In Barcelona, they’re just getting started. Join us as we discover what makes Christmas here so unique. Tio de Nadal Each year a hollow log called Tio de Nadal – a character in Catalan mythology – is painted with a smiley face and hung in the family home on 8th December. It’s then the kids’ job to feed Tio every day before beating him with sticks on Christmas Eve, while singing a traditional song with rather interesting lyrics. Having smacked him good and proper, presents magically appear from inside much to the children’s delight. If you don’t want to miss out on all the fun, head to the main Santa Llucia market where you’ll find a giant Tio de Nadal or buy your own from a local supermarket. Christmas swim You probably wouldn’t give a second thought to taking a dip in the Mediterranean under normal circumstance. However, doing it in the depths of winter might not seem quite as appealing. If you aren’t brave enough to enter the annual 200-metre race across the harbour on Christmas Day, join the crowds at the Christopher Columbus statue before noon to see who lifts the 111th Copa Nadal (Christmas Cup). Christmas markets The locals love a market, whether its to celebrate St. Georges Day – an important event in these parts – or simply to do a spot of grocery shopping. But they save the best for last. Barcelona’s magical Christmas markets are spread throughout the city, selling everything from festive fare to artisan crafts. Here are three you won’t want to miss: Fira de Santa Llúcia – located at the foot of the city’s imposing Gothic cathedral, Barcelona’s main Christmas market has been held here for over 225 years Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia – its location alone makes it a must-see. Regular appearances by none-other than Santa Claus mean the kids will love it too Fira Plaça Santa Maria del Pi – this artisan food market pops up in the Gothic district, with around 20 stalls selling delicious Catalan honey, chocolates, cheeses, wines and cakes Three Kings Parade Having already ushered in the New Year by eating 12 grapes – one for each strike of the bell – it’s time for the main event in Barcelona: The Kings Day Parade. Make sure you hang around until 5th January to witness the Three Wise Men cruise into Port Vell by galleon and collect the children’s letters. Before embarking on a parade through the city’s streets aboard flamboyant floats, dishing out sweets as they go. The festivities don’t end there. Rather than opening their presents on Christmas Day, Catalonian’s wait until 6 January (Epiphany) to honour the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem bearing gifts for baby Jesus. So, while everyone heads back to work in the UK, Christmas remains in full swing in Barcelona. Purchase a property in Barcelona with help from the experts Buy a pad in Barcelona and you won’t just have somewhere to hang your very own Tio de Nadal, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in all the local traditions each Christmas. Unfortunately, it’s not just Tio who takes a beating, so can the value of the pound under the influence of political and economic news. So, how can you protect your property buying budget from this currency market risk? Currency specialists RationalFX offer an award-winning service that is convenient, cost-effective and secure. From the expert market insight provided by your account manager to the specialist tools designed to help you stay in control of your payments, we can help make your dream a reality. For example, with RationalFX you can secure a rate for up to two years using a forward contract. The essence of this invaluable tool is to protect your financial position from rate fluctuations, preventing the price of your property disappearing out of reach when the time comes to complete.