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Discovering the origins of Olentzero and Mari Domingi

14th November, 2023

Plans Art

Christmas in the Basque Country cannot be understood without the presence of two very magical characters: Olentzero and Mari Domingi, the protagonists who ensure that kids receive their gifts on the winter solstice.

1. The legend of Olentzero

According to legend, Olentzero was abandoned in a forest when he was just a child, but Amalur (mother earth) found him and took him to some acquaintances who lived nearby, a peasant couple who took care of him as if he were their family.

When he grew up, he started working as a charcoal burner and in his free time he loved to go down to town to greet people and, above all, visit orphanages. He always came down loaded with gifts for the orphans, he felt very identified.

One day one of the orphanages in the town burned down and Olentzero rescued all the people inside, but as soon as he got the last person out he collapsed in front of the door. Amalur saw him, and decided to revive him and make him immortal for what he had done. Since then, Olentzero has been in charge of the well-being and happiness of the little ones and of bringing them home gifts at Christmas.

But he does not do it alone, one day he met Mari Domingi, a shepherdess who lived very close to his farmhouse, a mythological being who knows the earth and all its secrets: the path of the sun, the lunar phases and the use of medicinal plants. She delivers gifts from house to house along with Olentzero.

They are two of the most well-known and beloved characters in the Basque Country, protagonists of these magical festivities, they even have their own Christmas carols.


Christmas lights
Image of Christmas lights in Euskadi

Typical Christmas songs

We leave you a playlist with these carols and some typical Christmas songs from the Basque Country.

See playlist

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