That Zaragoza is not Nuremberg or Cologne is quite obvious, for better or worse. Perhaps the city does not enjoy the Germanic Gothic, but it can boast, for example, the Aragonese Mudejar. However, it does, for some years now, embrace one of the best-known Christmas traditions in Central Europe. With thirteen editions held, the Christmas market that is installed in the Plaza del Pilar drinks from the essence of these stalls. And, beyond the classic wooden booths, it offers a rich program for the whole family that lasts throughout the holidays. From workshops and guided tours, to performances and attractions, visitors will find in this central enclave more than fifty activities to enjoy the festivities.
It was on the 2nd, with the lighting of the classic lights of these dates, when it opened its doors a space that will remain in the square 40 days, until January 8. From 11.00 to 22.00 hours, and a little more on Saturdays and holidays, the stalls will offer typical gastronomy of these markets, such as mulled wine and sweets, and spaces protected from inclement weather to taste the products.
In the booths, clothes, flowers, accessories and original or typical Christmas gifts are some of the options that can be found. And not only that, but there will also be solidarity stalls in favor of associations such as Aspanoa, the foundation La Caridad or animal shelters.
All framed in a Christmas display that, in the same square, a few meters in front of the basilica, displays its life-size nativity scene of Judea. More than a thousand square meters dedicated to this traditional space, which includes a hundred figures and recreates enclaves such as the portal, the merchants’ souk or Herod’s palace. It was enjoyed by 3001,000 people last year and in 2022 returns with a schedule of visits from 10.00 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 21.00 hours.
Icy ramps, Santa Claus’ little house…
Continuing the tour from the entrance to the square on Calle Alfonso, on the right, is the market that, in its center, hosts a Christmas tree renovated this year. A little further to the right, going towards the cathedral of La Seo, stands one of the main attractions, the toboggan run; from 11.00 to 14.00 and from 16.00 to 22.00 hours, and from 11.00 to 00.00 hours on Saturdays and holidays, the descents down this spectacular ramp will delight young and old alike.
Special mention should be made of the space located in front of the Government Delegation, dedicated to the little ones and including Santa Claus’ little house. Until December 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., he will be there to attend to children’s wishes; a little less, because he also has to rest, he will be there on Saturdays and holidays, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Nearby there is also the royal mailbox that collects letters to the Three Wise Men, the wishing tree and attractions such as the carousel, the Christmas train or the Snow City space. In addition, the corner hosts one of the novelties introduced this year, the luminous letters representing the city, ZGZ, perfect for a souvenir photo shoot.
But all these proposals are not the only ones offered by the Plaza del Pilar. The largest ice rink in Zaragoza, the Ferris wheel or the ecological pony rides are also in the main focus of Christmas in the Aragonese capital.
More than fifty activities
All these spaces are complemented, in addition, with a rich program of activities of all kinds. Workshops on cookie decorating, Christmas decorations or the creation of zambombas; puppet shows with blackjack, by Teatro Arbolé, or the Titiriteros de Binéfar, Christmas carols, parades or the Amici Musicae choir are some of them.
One of the initiatives that stands out in the square and that returns in 2022 is the project to encourage reading ‘Books that matter’, promoted by the Atrapavientos association and the city council. From December 26 to 30 will be held this massive book exchange that in previous editions has found a great response among the people of Zaragoza.
To participate in it, it is not necessary to register, but it is enough to bring a wrapped copy with a dedication explaining why this work is important and the value it has. In exchange, you will receive a book from another ‘invisible reader’ who has joined the initiative.
As highlighted a few days ago the Deputy Mayor, Sara Fernandez, during the presentation of the program, Christmas in the Aragonese capital is not only for the enjoyment of the inhabitants of the city, but it is also “a very important tourist attraction”. With this objective in mind, the Tourism Department has planned actions for visitors to get to know and enjoy Zaragoza at this time of the year.
Thus, different routes will be offered to know the Mudejar and the legacy of Goya or enclaves such as the Monastery of Las Canonesas, while the tourist bus will make walks through the streets with Christmas decorations. There will also be guided visits to the Judea Nativity Scene. And, for the foreign visitor, the ‘walking tours’ will go to the main icons of the city with explanations in English and French on December 10 and 17, at 16.00 hours.
As the central point of Christmas that is the Plaza del Pilar, it will also host the New Year’s Eve cotillion to say goodbye to the year, after in 2021 it could not be celebrated because of the pandemic. From 11 p.m. onwards, the arrival of 2023 can be celebrated with the verbena of the Mazinger orchestra. And, of course, January 5 will be the place where the parade of the Three Kings will conclude, which will depart from the Joaquín Costa school and of which more details will be revealed soon.
Jotas in the neighborhoods
Although the square is the central Christmas space, other parts of the city will also enjoy different activities. Among them, the “rondas joteras” in the neighborhoods, recovered this year and that will be in the Plaza de las Canteras, in Torrero, on the 16th, and in the Plaza San Francisco, in the district of Universidad, on December 23rd, after having already passed through the neighborhood of Delicias on the 9th.
Christmas will also arrive at the Auditorio de Zaragoza, which will adapt its program and will host the Cantal de villancicos contest or concerts such as the New Year’s concert, that of the Reino de Aragón orchestra or that of the great film choirs, with works by authors such as Morricone, Zimmer and Williams.
At the Teatro Principal, plays such as ‘Totally Tina’ (from December 5 to 11); ‘Fuego’, by the Antonio Gades company (from December 15 to 18) and ‘Ser o no Ser’ (from January 4 to 8) will celebrate these days. Something that will also make the Teatro del Mercado with proposals such as ‘Retablo de Navidad’, the Puppeteers of Binéfar, from 4 to 8 January.