Dreaming of a white Christmas?

Bah, humbug.

Seville is proof that snow and cold weather are not required to get into the Christmas spirit.

From the smell of chestnuts roasting in the plazas to the dozens of nativity scenes on display, Christmas is everywhere in southern Spain’s capital.

The city is considered Spain’s cultural heart and it is the center of holiday activity in the Andalusia region. While many villages throughout the south have their own ways of celebrating the holiday season, few offer the list of activities Seville has from the first week of December until January.

Most of the holiday activities are in or near the center of the city, where the mammoth Gothic Cathedral stands. Thousands of white, red and green lights are strung around the streets and buildings.

The Day of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 is when the holiday season really begins. On the eve of the national holiday, college students dress up, come out into the streets surrounding the cathedral and play guitars and sing. The students, or los tunas, perform throughout the night.

The events are more subdued the following morning as children dressed in blue and gold costumes dance in the Cathedral. The dance of the Los Seises is a tradition that dates to the 15th century.

After mass, many people bring flowers to a statue of the Virgin Mary at Plaza de Triunfo. On a recent Wednesday, families brought their children to the base of the statue and dropped off bouquets and posed for photographs. Some simply paused and quietly bowed their heads in prayer.

East of the statue, a short walk down Avenida de la Constitucion, is the Feria del Belen, or the Nativity Fair. This Christmas market sells mostly nativity scenes and pieces crafted from artists in the province. They’re all for sale for those who want to build their own scene for their home. Pieces can cost anywhere from a euro to several hundred euros for the biggest and most elaborate settings.

People who just want to look at the nativity displays can find them throughout the town in chapels and hidden in the city’s twisted alleyways. Just follow the makeshift signs. They range from the magnificent to the amateur. Most are free but ask for donations.

The Christmas markets are better than what visitors will likely find in smaller villages across the region, but they fall short in the variety that is available at open-air holiday markets in places such as Germany, eastern France or Luxembourg.

But while Seville’s Christmas markets might not be as plentiful as the ones in those areas, southern Spain is warmer this time of year.

If you don’t need Jack Frost nipping at your nose to get in the spirit, then you probably won’t mind.

On the QT ...

DIRECTIONS: By car, Seville is about 75 miles from Rota. From Naval Station Rota, take CA-613 to A-491, then follow A-491 toward El Puerto de Santa Maria to N-IVA. Turn right at CA-201. Follow CA-201 through El Portal. Make a right at the roundabout onto A-381, and take A-381 to the autopista, A-4. (The turnpike charges 5 euros each way.) You’ll take the autopista all the way to Seville. Follow the signs to the city center.

TIMES: The Feria del Belen continues daily through Jan. 5, except for Christmas and New Year’s Day. It runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5-8:30 p.m. weekdays and noon to 2 p.m. and 5-8:30 p.m. weekends.

The Cathedral is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 2:30-6 p.m. Sundays and holidays 2:30-6 p.m. Most city monuments close on Mondays.

COST: Admission to the Cathedral is 7 euros. Parking is charged by the hour in several underground parking garages close to the center of town, and is recommended. Petty theft is a problem in Seville, and tourists’ cars parked on the streets have been known to be victimized.

FOOD: There are numerous restaurants and cafés in the center of town. The Santa Cruz area has some of the best restaurants. However, you can go from bar to bar and taste the different tapas, which are small portions of food such as shrimp, potato salad and calamari.

INFORMATION: There are many Christmas events. Go to the Web at for details.

— Scott Schonauer

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