Basque Country




Olentzero and Mari Domingi

  • Olentzero

Olentzero and Mari Domingi

Olentzero and Mari Domingi are the responsible for announcing Christmas time in The Basque Country. They share out sweets amongst the children who approach them to give them their letters on Christmas Eve, as well as presents in the night of December 24th. That day, many choirs walk through the streets in the evening singing the story of Olentzero and collect money. The group carries an Olentzero dummy or a man who dresses in the charcoal burner's clothes. When the night falls, the dummy is set on fire.


Who is the Olentzero? Popular songs describe Olentzero as a rascal and a kind person. Pre-Christian pagan tradition says that the winter solstice and fire are closely related. In its origins, Olentzero was a Christmas log by the fireplace. On the following day, ashes were spread out before the dwelling entrance in order to protect the house and its dwellers throughout the year.


According to Basque legends, a tribe of giants (gentiles) came down from the mountains to announce the birth of Kixmi (the name they gave to Christ). Olentzero took the shape of a charcoal burner combining the mythological element with the fire and the log. He confirmed the birth of Christ while he was working on the mountains and came down to tell the good news. In the 20th century Olentzero was added another feature that also shared Santa Claus and The Three Wise Men. He started bringing presents for children at Christmas.


Mari Domingi is another legendary figure involved in rites to connect with nature. She represents femininity and the winter solstice, followed by the new year, a new cycle.


Olentzero has his own farmhouse, Izenaduba Basoa, near the Uriguen Park, Mungia. It is one of the most ancient farmhouses of Euskadi and nowadays it is allowed to visit it. Throughout the year the visitors will have the possibility to observe the Basque legend.

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Date: 23/12/2022 - 07/01/2023