By mid-December, Lanzarote’s belenes (nativity scenes) will be on display in towns all over the island. Here’s how to enjoy this lovely tradition.
The belenes are large, often very large, and are usually displayed in the centre of each town. Every belén will feature the basic elements of Mary, Joseph, three shepherds and three wise men making their way towards the manger (baby Jesus is often absent until Christmas Day). But there’s much, much more….
That’s because Lanzarote’s belenes always celebrate the island they are created on, with volcanic landscapes, depictions of traditional agriculture and, often, scale models of real buildings on the island. It’s an acknowledgement that Christmas has come to the island, and that the Holy family are not just in Bethlehem, but here right among us.
Some belenes also feature a caganer. This Catalan tradition is a figure of young man squatting down to do a poo which is hidden somewhere in the nativity scene. It’s especially loved by children, but you won’t find it everywhere, as some regard it as vulgar.
Last year, we travelled all over the island to look at the belenes in various towns, and discovered that some are definitely worth waiting until sunset to visit. Here are our suggestions for two Christmas driving tours that will guarantee the best experience.
▸ PUNTA MUJERES One of the strangest festive displays on the island, Punta Mujeres’ Belén features large dolls located in a field by the roadside. It’s utterly charming and unique.
▸ HARÍA Haría’s lovely nativity scene reflects the cliffs, palms and rural existence of the north.
▸ TEGUISE Teguise’s Belén is a little staid compared to others, but modellers will appreciate the immense detail of the scaled-down buildings and the old town itself is even more magical at Christmastime.
▸ ARRECIFE Last year, Arrecife’s nativity scene raised the bar for all displays on the island – a huge, astonishingly detailed diorama of the whole island in a marquee on the seafront. It was accompanied by a Christmas market and the whole experience is sure to put you in a festive mood.
▸ TÍAS Tías lights up at Christmas, and the large belén in front of Tías’s San Antonio church is always worth seeing, full of detail and loving care.
▸ SAN BARTOLOMÉ San Bartolomé explodes into light at Christmas, with an immense Christmas tree and rows of palm trees dressed in fairy lights. In the heart of the Parque Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente you’ll find its lovely belén.
▸ TINAJO Tinajo’s Christmas show is unmissable, and we’d advise approaching from Tiagua to get the full effect of its incredible light show. Once you’re there, park and explore the “living belen”, featuring real animals and life size models.
▸ YAIZA Yaiza’s display is the island’s most famous – a stunning scale model of the island of Lanzarote. It’s the imagination and creativity that makes it stand out, a genuinely moving and wondrous vision of this fiery little island.
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