Former Huddersfield gymnast and pub landlord Brian Hayhurst and his wife Elaine are ex-pats who have lived just outside Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol for 20 years. He writes a regular blog for Huddersfield Hub.

Christmas preparations are well underway here with extensive and imaginative LED light decorations in towns and villages.

On Christmas Day the Spanish adults will usually make the event a family affair as they feast in homes but children will always wait in anticipation for the most important day of the year –  6th of January, Epiphany – Three Kings Day when they can open their presents.

Prior to that, on the 5th, the streets are alive with decorated floats all in full festive costumes. Those on the floats throw thousands of sweets to the crowds following the processions.

Boxing Day here is not celebrated as we do in the UK, and most will go to work as normal. The Spanish people have several holidays, which can tend to disrupt plans for visitors, as they are not easy to keep track of.

Two national holidays, often extended to five days, have just been enjoyed and gave people more days off work.

They were: December 6th – Constitution Day, which marks the anniversary in 1978 when Spain’s referendum decided the nation should transition to become a constitutional monarchy and democracy. And December 8th – Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The title speaks for itself!

New Year’s Eve is celebrated with the 100-year-old tradition of grapes at midnight. Believed to have started in Madrid, they say with every grape eaten on each strike of the clock it brings good luck and fortune.

Smaller seedless grapes can help in getting them consumed between chimes, especially with a swig of cava or champagne!

A couple of things which caught my eye this week, as an ex-pub landlord. We see in lots of hostelries and restaurants, the owners freely display their wines and spirits, often out of sight of the bar, and we’ve never heard of anyone helping themselves!

And frequently, quad bikers, cross country motorcyclists and horseback riders will call into their local and be served outside with a flagon or two, as the photo below shows.

For those who came to the Costa del Sol in the early years via the old notorious N340 road, passing nearby Torreblanca, they could not miss the enormous bull featured above on the hillside.

This eye-catching advert for ‘Brandy Veterano’ was erected in 1956. The original was made of wood but weather conditions up there made it necessary to change to metal. Standing 14 metres tall it weighs 4,000kg and is painted black.

The bulls (91 remaining nationwide) have become ingrained in Spanish culture, saved by a public campaign against removing them. The government agreed to preserve them but with any publicity blacked out.

The hopes of a change in the 90-day rule are gathering pace, as literally thousands of second home owners are stating that they pay taxes, add millions to the essential revenue they generate in the tourist economy, also having made significant investments here.

Many are suggesting a 180-day allowance per year or follow the French move to scrap it and allow people to enjoy the warmth at winter time. Millions of Brits feel they are being punished for Brexit! Things are moving, albeit slowly.

Finally, it’s adiós to 2023, and I take this opportunity on behalf of Elaine and I to wish friends, family and anyone who might read my column, a very Happy Christmas and a healthy New Year. I hope to be back sometime in 2024.

Love to all.

READ MORE: Enjoy Brian’s back catalogue of columns HERE