Christmas Carnage in Madrid

I will always think of Christmastime in Madrid, Spain as the land of lamb slaughter. It’s not like abattoirs were set up on street corners, nor did the sidewalks run red with blood–but it is the place where you can buy a mechanical figurine of a random dude with a knife sacrificing a lamb for your Nativity set, which completely changes the scene from a nice Away in a Manger vibe into a Run for Your Very Lives foreboding.

I have to tell you–I’m almost sad I didn’t buy it, but what does an atheist need with a Nativity figure?

At the Christmas market at Plaza Mayor, shops where you can purchase figurines like these are abundant. Did you catch that I said the dude with a knife is mechanized? The batteries power up his slicing arm, so it really lends that macabre note to your set up.

The market, which is set up in the traditional German-style, has about 100 chalets–and about 1/3 of them sell figurines. There’s not a ton of shopping choices beyond that. Of the remaining shops, half sell Christmas ornaments and half sell cheap hats and plastic masks…because who amongst us doesn’t need a scary-ass IT clown mask for the holidays?

Despite the fact that shopping options are limited at the Plaza Mayor, after dark the square gets packed. Hundreds of people come to hang out in the glow of the lights and the spirit of the season. It’s kind of nice, even though I was definitely wishing for some roasted chestnuts and glühwein.

Luckily, Chocolatería San Ginés is just around the corner, so you can sit outside under the heat lamps and examine the existential dread of Christmas with an order of churros and chocolate!

There are other seasonal markets in Madrid that offered up a lot less bloodshed and way more shopping fund. The Mercadillo del Gato, for instance. This little market occurs monthly, from what I understand, but the December market is larger–clothes and jewelry, mostly. And the Feria Mercado de Artesania was fantastic. There were well over 100 vendors at the market, which is being held at the Paseo de Recoletos this year. Clothes and jewelry, sure, but you’ll also find housewares, accessories, and all sorts of gifts that represent regional arts and crafts.


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