Madrid is pure magic. And Christmas is one of the most magical times in the world par excellence. So if you join one another, an experience like no other appears. In fact, Christmas is one of the times that attracts the most tourism: it is a spectacle to stroll through its streets.
And we are sure that every Christmas incredible things happen, things to remember, things that should be embodied in a physical or digital support for the knowledge of the whole world, but that are surely reserved for the delight of oneself.
But it was not always like this: there have been legends and events that have transcended time and have survived the years. Today we bring you three of them.
The last Christmas candles of the Alcazar
The fire of the Alcazar Real – December 24, 1734
We always imagine Christmas Eve with candles presiding over a warm family stamp. Is not always that way. A candle changed the direction of the history of Madrid on a Christmas Eve far away. The former Royal Alcazar had been standing since the time of the Arab Mayrit.
It was a Muslim fortress, residence of the Trastámara, seat of the Cortes and home of Felipe II. However, the new Bourbon dynasty was not very in tune with the anachronistic style that had been given its different reforms.
Felipe IV hated him and ordered the construction of a Palace in the Retreat, which had already disappeared. On Christmas Eve of 1734 the royal family was in that palace when an oversight in the painter Jean Ranc’s quarters started an unstoppable fire.
The bells rang, but the people of Madrid believed that it was the mass of Gallo. It was late. Courtesans and religious organized to rescue the royal treasures, including Las Meninas and the portrait of Carlos V de Tiziano. However, in a fire without mercy, more than 500 works perished, including several by Velázquez, such as La Expulsion de Los Moriscos, the Archive of the Indies and a multitude of incunable historical documents. After four days of fire, the royal family decided to build instead a palace inspired by the luxury of the French court forgetting the austerity of the Austrias.
The lottery, daughter of Madrid
The first draw – December 10, 1763
Christmas would not be the same without his official gunshot; the Christmas Lottery draw. Everyone knows that it emerged as an initiative to raise funds to help fight Napoleonic troops. Once the French army was expelled, the draw for the traditional El Gordo Lottery was established in Madrid. However, the idea was not novel. A Madrid lottery had inspired the creation of this Christmas emblem. This is the State Lottery and was created by Carlos III. Its collection covered the expenses of the Madrid hospital and its benefits were a great inspiration for the creation of the New Spain Lottery in Mexico during 1771 and later El Gordo. It is currently known as the Primitive Lottery and is one of the oldest in the world. In its first edition it consisted of 90 numbers. The bettor made a combination of 5 numbers and the winner took the prize. A Christmas illusion that is still valid today.
Lights and smiles on Christmas nights
First Christmas lighting – 1862
Christmas lights, symbol of a time of light and hope. Walking through the illuminated streets draws an illusion smile among the inhabitants of the city. Although, until the 19th century, the picaresque of Madrid reigned on Christmas nights. The city was filled with candles that pointed the way forward for the Magi. Many locals took the opportunity to meet and find outsiders. These unsuspecting were accompanied by pans and cowbells in the streets making a serenade worth seeing. They were convinced that the Magi distributed gold and silver and would guide them to them. The astonished visitors to this possibility of fortune obeyed until the wee hours of the morning when the sleepless city took refuge in the canteens in the heat of the wine. They were taken there to toast with a smile for the joke they had just suffered.
A traditional way of compadreo that was in force until 1882 when it was banned by the mayor. In December 1862 the first electric Christmas lighting was produced with the installation of four lanterns in the Plaza de Callao that transformed the old customs of candles and serenades. The light power was portrayed in the press of the time with headlines such as: “It was daylight in Callao” or “In Callao the sun never sets”. The stupefaction and the smiles of the nights under the protection of the Christmas lights still accompany us in the 21st century.