We became aware of the Spanish tradition of the Belén when we visited La Laguna about three years ago and saw the Belén displays with a Tenerife friend who showed us around. Belén is the Spanish word for Bethlehem, the town in the biblical holy land where Jesus Christ was believed to have been born.
The Belenes are the very detailed miniature models of the nativity scene, the effort put into these models and the attention to detail is quite remarkable. The scenes depict the story of the nativity from the bible, the scenes are mostly in miniature, but some displays are life size displays.
This year there are over 25 different Belenes in La Orotava, each with their own intricate displays, so we decided to catch the 345 bus from Puerto de la Cruz to La Orotava to follow the Ruta de Belenes, a route you can follow and see the many Belen nativity scenes. We started at the Iglesia de San Austin, there were small wall mounted displays cleverly using mirrors to give the displays more depth, then moving on to the Villa de La Orotava and then to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento where there were life size displays of biblical Bethlehem all around the Plaza.
The Christmas period in Tenerife goes on until the 6th January, so the Belen displays are open until then, which is the 12th day of Christmas or Three Kings day, named after the three wise men bearing gifts for the baby Jesus in the Christmas story. In Tenerife Christmas gifts are exchanged on the 6th of January, the same day the three wise men gave their gifts to Jesus, unlike in the UK where we exchange our presents on Christmas day.
La Orotava is a great place to do your Christmas shopping with its many stylish shops and boutiques, if you are on Tenerife then you still have until the 6th of January to buy the special person in your life a gift for Three Kings Day.
This is our first Christmas in Puerto de la Cruz in the north of Tenerife, although not our first on the island as we spent Christmas in the south a few years ago. Tinerfeños, as the people of Tenerife are called, are far more religious it seems than most of us from the UK.