The Anatomy of a Cesta de Navidad

When my very first cesta de navidad arrived, wrapped up in cellophane and emblazoned with Corte Inglés publicity, I excitedly ripped open the top of the box and dug out the contents of the box.

I was literally a kid on Christmas morning, just three weeks early.

Many companies and organizations give pre-packaged Christmas baskets to their employees during the holiday. They’re also raffled off at bars and hermandades for a few euros, but they all have two things in common: edibles and booze.

cestas de navidad el corte ingles

In my first cesta, I received four bottles of wine, one of whiskey and one of anisette, plus enough cured meat to tide me over until Easter. Baskets also include typical Christmas sweets, cheeses, conservas like bonito or white asparagus and an interesting brick of something called a “Christmas Broth.” Contents are neatly packed up and shipped out to the tune of anywhere from around 20€ and up to 300€! 

While my Christmas shopping usually consists of plane tickets to spend the holidays somewhere with my parents, this year I’ll be flying home for wedding planning. Rather than scramble for gifts amidst other scrambling shoppers, I decided to make a twist on the traditional Christmas basket by bringing my favorite and American-palatte-approved goodies home in ceramics.

What is in a Spanish gift basket

Because, really, what do you get the woman who has it all (as far as Spanish souvenirs go) and is picky? 

My American-Tastes-and-Customs-Friendly-While-Still-Being-Andalusian Cesta de Navidad:

1 50g sachet of saffron – 5€

Cesta de navidad saffron

The same amount of azafrán in the US costs $16, so I was thrilled to find it wrapped up nicely!

1 220g package of Andalusian oranges covered with chocolate and olive oil – 5€

cesta de navidad chocolate covered oranges

Everyone in my family but me are chocoholics, and these oranges are representative of Seville, with the olive oil giving it an appropriate amount of acidity.

1 300g orange marmalade spread – 4,50€

cesta de navidad orange marmelade

Naranjos abound in Seville, and the oranges collected from them are made into bitter orange marmalade. Nuns at the Santa Paula monastery make this particular type, and peddle it out of their turnstiles.

1 250mL tin of Basilippo Arbequina extra virgin olive oil – 8€

cesta de navidad Andalusian olive oil

Basilippo is an award-winning brand of extra virgin olive oil planted, harvested and pressed in nearby El Viso del Alcor.  The arbequina olive it’s made from is known for its suave and balanced taste.

1 package of Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite with cinnamon and sugar – 2,50€

cesta de navidad Ines Rosales cakes

Tortas de Aceite have been around for ages, and Ines Rosales is an international superstar when it comes to producing them just outside of Seville. Other varieties include savory with rosemary and sea salt, or made with oranges.

Assorted lard-free polverones – 2€

mantecados de estepa

I’m not a fan of these crumbly cookies, which are ubiquitous with Christmas in Spain. The most common version are made from manteca, or pig’s lard, which is a no-no with customs in the US. I found some piggy-free varieties at Ines Rosales.

6 Cola Cao individual packages – 1,43€

cesta de navidad Cola Cao

The bright yellow plastic canisters are a Spanish kitchen staple, and I love the powdery goodness of Cola Cao every Sunday with my churros. Rather than buying the canister, you can get individual packets just like at a bar.

1 package of Suchard turrón with whole almonds – 2,94€

cesta de navidad suchard

Spanish Christmas sweets let me down, but chocolate turrón is practically a gigantic candy bar. The normal stuff is nougat, made only with sugar, egg whites and honey.   

3 individual bottles of Frexienet cava – 3,99€

cesta de navidad champagne

These small bottles of cava are festive and perfect for toasting the new year at midnight on New Year’s Eve. And they’re easy to carry and open!

3 individual tetra bricks of Don Simón red wine – 1,35€

cesta de navidad don simon

I’m the only wine drinker in my family, so these miniature tetras are for novelty more than anything! Plus, customs is getting stricter on how much alcohol you can bring back, and it must be claimed on your customs form.

1 jar of pimientos de piquillo – 1€

cesta de navidad pimientos de piquillo

For whatever reason, I thought that pimientos de piquillo would make a good gift for a dad who loves to experiment with recipes. If all else fails, I don’t think they’ll go bad any time soon!

San Vicente semi-cured cheese – 3,65€

Cesta de navidad hard cheese

Meats are a big no with customs, but hard and semi-hard cheeses are totally fine. My sister loves any sort of stinky cheeses, and this is one gift I’m glad to get in on!

2 bottles of Taïfa beer – 4,40€

cesta de navidad local beer

My family members are big beer drinkers, so I picked up some local Taïfa cervezas from the Mercado de Triana. Thankfully, craft beer is catching on in Seville, and these varieties are palate pleasers.

And to put it all together, 1 ceramic bowl – 12€

cesta de navidad ceramics

All that extra weight cost me 50.05€ for each cesta. 

I added little touches of things I’d known would be hits, such as black-and-white old photos of Seville for my parents, a tub of Nutella for my sister (not Spanish, but what everyone equates with European snack food) and a Spanish heavy metal CD for my brother-in-law.

Noticeably absent are the meats, the fish and the olives, but why transport things home that could get me in trouble with customs, or go uneaten?

Are you decking the halls, or are you more of a Scrooge? More on Christmas in Spain: Spanish Christmas Sweets | My Favorite Spanish Christmas TraditionsSnapshots of the Reyes Magos

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. What a nice idea! I love your riff on the traditional Spanish cestas. The pre-made ones seem to be pretty outlandish in cost, so I enjoyed seeing your picks for a DIY basket. Hope your family doesn’t see their goodies just yet!!
    Cassandra recently posted..November and the Dreaded In-BetweenMy Profile

    • You know you pay a premium for Corte Inglés snobbery, right?? And my parents don’t read my blog, so I’m safe!

  2. I’ve always (secretly?) desired to get a cesta de navidad. I coulud just go buy myself all the items, but a basket is just so niiiiice.
    Kaley recently posted..Spanish Old Wives’ Tales (And Their Veracity)My Profile

    • It’s a really exciting moment, I won’t lie! It may be a bit anticlimactic, but think about how much food and drink you get! You can live off of it for a week, easily.

  3. i got several cestas de navidad due to my previous job….the first year included two boxes, one with a whole jamon serrano, and the other box with sweets, red wine and many more…then the second year and because of the crisis we only got one box with no jamon, only wine and sweets and little more!….and the third year and on we got absolutely nil because the crisis got worse, haha

    i agree that it is an exciting moment!

  4. I love this idea of riffing off of the Spanish cesta tradition to gift-give back home! I’m a big fan of giving consumable gifts like food & such rather than junk that just tends to collect, and what better way to share a little bit of Spain than with food! Props to you for bringing olive oil in a mostly-indestructable tin container; although it’s not jiennense, I think I can let that slide…*ahem* 😛 That ceramic bowl will be a beautiful gift!

  5. Most of those items would actually be great to bring home back to the States! I have never seen the Ines Rosales with cinnamon and sugar. A Spanish friend of mine living in Australia says they’re super expensive there. You should do a YouTube video of yourself ripping the basket apart and showing off the products. (My daughter is entranced with those videos right now.)
    Justine recently posted..I’m on a podcast!My Profile

    • I will be sure to have the camera ready! Thanks for reading, Justine (and, for the record, if I could have found a cagatio, he would have replaced the ceramic bowl).

  6. Great post, Cat! Lots of cool ideas there. Tortas de aceite are fab – I was intrigued to find out they’re so popular in the US, especially these cinnamon ones, when I visited their factory. Due to weight restrictions and a suitcase-filling amount of warm winter clothes for me and the kids, I am limited to a bottle of Botani espumante, Doña Manuela cheese (we visited her farm this year, always a trip to buy products from a place where you’ve seen them made) and smoked tuna. Look forward to hearing about how your goodies go down with the family! Have a great time!

    • I don’t know that they’re popular, but my family is picky and I figured they’d go down well! The orange ones are great, too. Happy holidays and safe travels!

  7. This is such a good idea Cat! I am sure your family will be thrilled with the gifts. I am making a little one for my Spanish friend who is going to be spending Christmas with my family this year.
    I hope you have a great time back in the States with your loved ones. Take care.
    Kim recently posted..5 more local Christmas gift ideas from SevilleMy Profile

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