Despite the fact that Spain and the UK are both part of Europe there are major differences in the way special events are celebrated.
Christmas Day is a major event in the UK but the Spanish really celebrate Christmas on the 6th January, the Feast of the Three Kings (Dia de Reyes). This is when Spanish children receive their presents. This is when the major processions take place in the streets and they can be spectacular processions! This part of Christmas is the major part of the holiday but to the British this is the end of the Christmas period and for most Brits the holiday is over. Some adjustment is therefore required.
Speaking to many new arrivals on the coast they are often taken by surprise that in a very Catholic country, Christmas does not appear to produce the hustle and bustle that you would expect in the UK around the Christmas season. There is not the same frenzied shopping. The supermarkets are not full of people stocking up as if there was going to be a siege. There are no carol singers and while even the smallest towns have their lights in the streets and squares there is a noticeable absence of domestic Christmas trees especially in Spanish areas. The Spanish do not decorate their houses the way we would do and there are far fewer January sales.
Holy week is also a major part of the calendar on the Costa del Sol with many towns and cities almost brought to a halt by the celebrations. Although it is a little bit far away from the coast proper, Seville has the most amazing celebrations for Holy Week, Semana Santa, and the city basically closes down for a week. It is such a large festival that it can be almost impossible to book a hotel room in the city.
Summer festivities around the Feast of San Juan are another major part of the calendar here and most towns, even the smallest, have the most amazing and elaborate festivities and firework displays to celebrate the summer solstice.
There appear to be far more public holidays in Spain generally and the first thing that any new arrival here needs to do is to buy a Spanish calendar. Only by doing this will you be able to anticipate when all the shops and services will be closed and in the process you will save yourself a great deal of irritation and inconvenience when you discover that there is nowhere to buy the food to put on your table because you did not know that there was a public holiday. In our first year here we were occasionally very frustrated by public holidays. I have provided a list of the public holidays on the Costa del Sol in Appendix 3.