Friday, January 11, 2019

Day Trip {Arcos Live Nativity}

Once a year for one day only, a nearby white hill town -- Arcos de la Frontera, puts on a huge belén viviente (live nativity) event.  We went two years ago and loved it, so we knew we wanted to take my parents this year as they were in Spain for all of the holiday season!

For one day only (and if it rains, it will be cancelled and not rescheduled), the entire town of Arcos transforms into Bethlehem in various scenes and reenactments all throughout the city.  It is no simple nativity scene, that is for sure!  It is insanely detailed and well planned out, complete with actual bread and other food being cooked and live animals.  It really is amazing and should be seen at least once, especially if you live in Spain!
When we went two years ago, we waited in line for easily 2+ hours before being able to enter into the upper city to see the nativity area.  So this year, we went much earlier.  We knew it started about 5:30pm but we didn't know when the town would shut down the upper city, so we arrived probably about 3/3:30-ish.  It seemed as if they didn't shut down the city until closer to 4:30/5:00pm so you could easily head up into the upper city about an hour before it starts and be good.

Closer to start time, we noticed people just hanging out -- drinking, eating and not moving up into the city to follow the route of the nativity event.  We decided they must know something, so we hung back too and we lucked out!  The event starts by the Three Kings parading through the city to go see the baby Jesus before taking their place in the nativity -- basically meaning they sit on their thrones and all the kids deliver their letters and sit on their lap and get their picture taken.
Remember Santa doesn't really come to Spain, the big holiday is Three Kings Day when the Kings deliver presents.  So for Spanish children, sitting on the Kings' laps is like American children going to visit Santa.

And then we just wandered the route of the belén viviente which is really well marked and will easily take you 1-2 hours (probably closer to two hours, even if moving at a decent pace).  The route takes you all around the upper city/hill area of Arcos past all the scenes and such.  You can go as slow or fast as you want!

Serafina has a slight obsession with the Baby Jesus (she does get religion classes at school) so she was so excited to go see the Baby Jesus and was just in awe when she finally saw Him.  It was pretty adorable watching her!  She would have stayed at this scene all night if we had let her :)
the real baby Jesus

Some quick tips -- we parked at the bottom of the hill in a dirt lot where everyone else was parking.  This really is the best place to park but just know that you will be walking a lot and up hills!  It also gets super crowded (literally wall to wall people at some places) so if you can wear your kiddo, that is best -- strollers can be tricky to navigate the large crowds.  We did a stroller our first year and I wore Serafina this year and wearing was MUCH easier!

We had a wonderful time and so happy we were able to experience this event again!

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