Christmas celebrations across Spain: Zambombas in Jerez

AS the season of cheer approaches, and the night is filled by the warm glow of a thousand christmas lights, a particular form of merrymaking takes place in Andalucia’s Jerez de la Frontera.

Locally known as a Zambomba, this event is a spontaneous union of Jerezanos anywhere and at any time, to celebrate Christmas to the sound of their favourite christmas carols.

“Have you been to a Zambomba yet?” In pre-pandemic years this question wafts through the happy chatter of every bar, like the scent of mulled wine on Christmas eve. This special brand of festivity is distinct to Jerez. You will only find these events here.

As you gaily stroll down the street, you will come across spontaneous gatherings of people, coming together to share their Christmas spirit through song. Bending down to speak to her child on Calle San Pablo, a major tapas area in Jerez, a mother whispers to her young child, in a voice tinged with excitement: “Look! A Zambomba.”

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A Zambomba takes place in Jerez. Photo: Fundación Cajasol/Flickr

Passers-by always join these festive groups. Everyone is welcome.

In the middle of the group a persona plays the instrument that lends its name to this festivity, a Zambomba.

It is made from items that you would find at home, a large clay pot, a bed sheet and a bamboo stick. The player rubs his hands in water and tugs on the stick, producing the throbbing beat that underlies every song dripping with christmastide charm.

Jerezanos Classics include “Madroños al Niño”, “Abreme la Puerta” and “Noche de Paz” (Silent Night).

The music is a magical conglomeration of the Zambombas throbbing beat, a traditional flamenco clap, and the undivided melody of people’s voices.

The local Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) refers to it as; “La Zambomba jerezana es sena de identidad de esta tierra.”

“The Jerez Zambomba is a sign of the identity of this land.”

Untouched by the tourist trade, these events remain locally organised and totally free. Anyone can join them in la calle.

All are welcome under Jerez Christmas spirit. And although COVID-19 is dampening such traditions again this year, it is normal for Jerezanos to invite you to their own at their house. There’s wine a-plenty, the most glorious food and a warm fire.

The perfect Christmas scene – Spanish style.

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