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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Good Cheer, and Watch Out For Those Polverones!
Monday, December 18, 2023 @ 10:14 AM

Christmas in Spain. At least down where I live, it doesn’t quite ring true like the old traditions in England. There’s no holly or mistletoe (acebo and muérdago) to leave on the shelf or kiss the maid under. Come to think of it, there’s no maid either. The tree looks a bit out of place as well, and some of us settle for the dried flower from a century plant, una pita, bedecked with a ribbon or two.

I just have the one Christmas card this year to put on the – well, the chimney-piece if there was one. It’s from my old nanny from when I was a child in Norfolk (it’s almost sixty years since I’ve last seen her). It has a snow-scene and a short poem in a rather wonky metre. It was posted in late October and I gather that it must have travelled about fifty kilometres a day to reach me in Almería a mere seven weeks later. Well done our friends at Correos, and don’t forget the seasonal tip for Mr Postie!

Instead of Christmas cards, we seem to give each other those dreadful poinsettias instead.

The thing is, the old traditions don’t really have the same thrust over here. I suppose one can buy Christmas Pud at the English shop in our local market town, and douse it with brandy, but I’ll pass on that, thanks. The turkey is fine, although my Spanish family prefers endless plates of jamón serrano and gambas for the New Year thrash.

I think they may have a point.

We have plenty of cakes here though. The Roscón de Reyes is as delicious as the polverones are terrible. These floury morsels are quite impossible to swallow, even with a seasonable glass of anís.

I wonder - do the banks still offer this interesting combination to its customers (usually consumed before one see one's balance)?

I’m pretty sure that the petrol stations have sadly given up on this delightful institution… After all, there’s nothing quite like like driving drunk with the manager’s compliments.

Carol singing in England for me as a child was a quick couple of verses of ‘The First Noel’ followed by mince pies and some warming toddy. Then off to the mansion at the other end of the lane for a repeat. Here we are regaled ceaselessly throughout the entire season by villancicos: horrible songs pumped out all day long through the Nation’s municipal and supermarket loudspeakers as performed by cute little choristers and their noisome piping voices. Today I heard the revolutionary ‘While Shepherds Wash Their Socks by Night’ on the radio, sung in passable English. 

The Spanish are fond of Christmas lights. Our village has – so I read somewhere – 200,000 euros worth of Christmas light-bulbs and sundry decoration nailed to the trees, lamp-posts, roofs and traffic signs, to continue – I’m told – all through to the end of January.

They are so bright that somebody from the Space Station apparently asked the town hall to ‘tone it down a bit’.

Dressing up as Santa Claus is just silly. He wears a heavy red outfit with cap and mittens, while our local temperature is in the high twenties thanks to Global Scorching.

I think just a red tee-shirt would be quite enough to go with the ho ho ho.

The bus-driver this morning was wearing a Santa’s hat. The American version of Christmas in Spain is every year more evident. They’ve even introduced here the frightening elf on the shelf – el elfo travieso – to watch over the small ones.

There’s no Christmas stocking here as yet, and indeed the whole presents-under-the-tree thing is another foreign import which, no doubt, is working its way into Spanish custom (the toy-shop people will be seeing to this). I suppose that, reeling as we are from not winning the Christmas lottery, something in gaudy paper to unwrap on Noche Buena – Christmas Eve – might have been a good idea. A kind of consolation gift.

The small presents given out by the Spanish for January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany – usually falling on the day before school begins – don’t quite hit the spot.

I was once one of the Three Kings – the blond one of course. All went well as we arrived in the town square in a suitably decorated dumper truck but when the first, rather fat child sat on my knee to receive a dinky-toy, he spotted that under the heavy makeup lurked a guiri. He let out a quite improper shriek, even though I explained that all three of the Reyes Magos were indeed foreigners. You know. From afar.

The best thing about our Christmas season, and you will notice it in the photos we send on the Internet to our families and friends in far-off England (Christmas cards won’t get there until Easter), is the fact that we are all wearing tee-shirts under a warm blue sky.

Now, could there be a better gift than that?

Like 3


pepem said:
Saturday, December 23, 2023 @ 10:52 AM

Ricos Polvorones (unfortunately not here in Norwich) neither figuritas de mazapan, nor Turron, no El Gordo, no Santos Inocentes, no sharing la capita de anis or cognac, no belenes anywhere, no zambombas, no fact no Navidad for me here….lots of silly never ending carols.
The tree is a German invention, Santa has nothing to do with the Nativity, Rudolph ??? where are the camels and donkies ??
But no other complaints everything is available on Amazon though.


roberto123 said:
Saturday, December 23, 2023 @ 11:50 AM

Lidl do a few Spanish things such as Turron at Xmas, I spent a Christmas in Fuengirola some years ago in a a big posh hotel but it was not very Xmasy, something missing but cannot put my finger on it.
However Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone.

Lagalesa said:
Saturday, December 23, 2023 @ 5:04 PM

Not everywhere in Spain has t-shirt weather!! We live in inland Sevilla and it's 3 pairs of socks and woolly jumper weather!
They make Polverones and Mantecados (which I prefer) in our nearest "big" town, Estepa. The town smells of cinnamon when they start the production in earnest...lovely.
And we shall be feasting on Christmas pud - but probably not on the day itself - when we shall have lamb (a treat in these parts!) and the usual suspects as far as veggies go!
Feliz Navidad a tod@s!

lenox said:
Monday, December 25, 2023 @ 6:07 AM

I've added a few more points - as they came to me at four in the morning on Christmas Day.
¡Felices fiestas a todos!

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