Christmas Eve in Spain is the most important gathering of the entire year for Spanish families. Called Nochebuena, meaning ‘good night’ in Spanish, Christmas Eve consists of a large and lengthy evening meal with the family. At the end of the meal, typical Christmas sweets are served including turrón, marzipan, polvorones, among many other things. On some of our private tours we include tasting of turron, though it is not something people demand since its knowledge is not widespread.
Turrón, a type of nougat made of toasted sweet almonds and honey, is the real star at the dessert table. Marzipan is a traditional dessert of almond and sugar paste made into small little shapes. Polvorones are a type of crumbly shortbread made of flour, sugar, milk, and nuts.
Turron did not originate in Spain though it is the country in the world with the highest consumption and it has been for so many centuries a part of the Spanish gastronomy that it can already be considered a local specialty with no hesitation.
The first evidence of turron is in the word turun which originates in the Arabic peninsula. It would have been introduced by the moors in Spain and it became part of the Christian diet during the XVI century. Its basic composition is as simple as it is delicious: honey and almonds. The reason why it became a Christmas delicatessen has to do with money. Turron, like many other specialties and special dishes which became worldwide food for special occasions, was (and still is when it is of top quality) expensive. Poor people could only afford it on very special occasions, and Christmas would have found its opportunity there!