Como Consulting: The Spanish expat's guide to holiday gift-giving
What's the perfect Spanish gift to give family and friends at Christmas? Como Consulting presents 12 tongue-in-cheek gift ideas to give loved ones a taste of Spain.
We’ve been there, too. You want to deck the halls back home with cool Spanish gifts, but there's your budget, customs and the fact that shopping before Christmas in Spain is a nightmare. In the mad dash of company dinners, lights festivals and all too many celebratory copas and chestnuts, we often find ourselves scrambling for gift ideas and being confused about customs limits. COMO Consulting presents 12 tonge-in-cheek Christmas gift ideas to bring back from Spain.
Twelve seedless grapes for Nochevieja
Twelve strokes of midnight, 12 months in a year, 12 grapes shoved into your mouth during New Year's countdown. But not everyone had the idea of deseeding them before stuffing them in those tiny cans. An easier way to continue the tradition back home is to ask for seedless grapes and teeny bottles of champagne.
Eleven packs of vacuum-sealed 100g pata negra
Jamón is ever-present on the Spanish Christmas table. Those huge ham legs, however, are difficult to cut. You can ask, though, to have it deboned, sliced up nice and thin, then sealed in vacuum packs. Note that transporting meat outside of the EU is technically illegal, though some risk-taking travellers have used these packs to smuggle acorn-fed jamón overseas. Keep in mind that it could be confiscated if found, depending on the country's customs. Boiled ham just can’t hold a candle to the good stuff.
Ten boxes of mantecados
Spanish Christmas sweets have probably already taken over your tiny neighbourhood grocery store. Lard-based mantecados and polvorones are the Reyes Magos’ preferred treats and a fun novelty next to sugar cookies and gingerbread men. Just a word: if you’re not into all the full fatty goodness, try tortas de aceite, mazapan or mostachones.
Nine ladies dancing (on painted abanicos)
Females in the family love these hand-painted fans called abanicos. They’re lightweight and easy to carry, making them perfect for the middle-aged ladies in your life.
Eight sachets of spices
Everything from paprika to saffron is produced in Spain. This makes it a better budget option for gifts and takes up far less space than bottles of wine or olive oil.
Seven CDs of Spanish music
Give the gift of music to the fans in your life. Try a compilation of Paco de Lucía, Spain’s most revered flamenco guitarist, or make your own mix with your favourite Spanish pop tunes to add a little spice to your back home get-togethers.
Six ceramic nativity figurines
Or splurge and get the whole village! As Christmas nears, Spanish nativity sets known as belénes take over store display windows, school foyers and even the streets. Bring a little holiday cheer home by getting the basic set for your loved ones: the Holy Family, the ox, the cow and the caganer — the cheeky man pooping at the corner.
Five litres of liquid gold
Olive oil is mass-produced in Spain (just ask anyone allergic to olive blossoms in the springtime) and the stuff makes a great gift for anyone who loves to cook. Specialty brands even include gorgeous packaging. But the best part? There’s no limit to how much you can take into North America.
Four pairs of espartos
No shoe is more comfortable or more fashion (say it with a Spanish lisp) than the rope-soled esparto shoes. European sizes are goofy but these handmade gifts are a big hit for both genders and are usually durable enough to last a few seasons. You know, because we non-Spaniards never walk anywhere anyway.
Three bottles of delicious Spanish wine
If you’re headed home for the holidays, know your limits — and we’re not just talking about tolerance. You are usually only allowed to bring a maximum of three bottles of wine abroad but anything more than a litre could incur some taxes. If you pack them in your checked bags, make sure they’re nice and cozy for the transatlantic flight (and don’t forget to declare them, or potentially face a $10,000 fine). After that, trick your loved ones into thinking it’s crazy expensive and that you’ve become a wine snob while in Europe.
Two décimas for El Gordo
Spain’s annual Christmas lottery is a social event in itself. This is evident through the crowd of people you see in bars watching the children of San Ildefonso School sing out lottery numbers. The grand prize is a cool EUR 4 million, though there are several smaller prizes in the lottery as well.
The décimas are pricey — EUR 20 a piece — so consider buying with a group. Schools, organisations and even bars will buy a whole series of tickets, then sell them off to patrons or members. If one of the numbers wins a prize, everyone splits the pot.
Haven’t you seen the latest Lotería Nacional ad? Goosebumps, and not because the weather is turning nippy.
One Cesta de Navidad
Why settle for just one of these gifts when the Corte Inglés takes care of it all including the gift wrapping for you? Starting at EUR 30, these cestas or baskets are specially prepared with a gourmet gamut of Spanish products — wines, cheeses, preserves and meats, oh my! Put it all in a festive wicker basket, cover with cellophane and top with a bow. Christmas is served. Just remember customs limits (US link)!
No matter what, having you home for the holidays will be the best gift for your loved ones. And if all else fails, keychains and t-shirts will do the trick. LaTienda.com, an online store with a variety of Spanish specialities, is also handy to send gifts home if you can't make it yourself.
COMO Consulting helps make your transition to Spain a smooth one by offering you relocation services like residency application assistance, advice on permanent or semi-permanent residency or a contact in the country. Founded by two seasoned American expats, their experience and knowledge is already trusted by dozens of happy clients. Get the tools and learn the tricks to start your life in Spain: Twitter, Facebook.
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