! Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo !
A Spanish Christmas..
CAROL SINGING, CRIBS, "THE KINGS", FAMILY, FRIENDS, FESTIVE FARE AND FUN sum up Christmas in Spain. The merriment begins with Carol singing concerts and competitions from around the 18th December onwards. They vary from the classical to flamenco, depending on the region and the latter are gay, joyful and accompanied by guitars. the box (la caja) and the flamenco clap.
Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) is celebrated more so than Christmas Day. The family gathers together in the grandparents' home, alternating grandparents from one year to another, but all the women and many of the men help in the preparation of the evening meal - a veritable feast - which begins about 10 p.m. and can go on until the small hours. Some sing carols around the crib of the nativity scene which remains without the baby until the stroke of midnight. Other families go to midnight Mass but many in modern-day Spain watch the Christmas programmes on TV while washing down Christmas sweetmeats of Turron (nougat) and mantecas (a range of butter-based biscuits) with Cava (Spanish champagne) after their meal.
Christmas Day sees another splendid meal at midday which will be shared with family and friends. Spaniards' love of good food and wine and the leisurely sharing of it and good company is optimised over the festive period. While there is some giving of gifts at Christmas, particularly to the children, the traditional time of giving and receiving is January the 6th, the Epiphany or "Los Reyes" ("The Kings").
Noche Vieja - New Years Eve again is celebrated with family and friends at home or "on the town". People congregate in every main square throughout the country to wait for the bells which herald in the New Year and on the stroke of each bell a grape is eaten and wishes made for the forthcoming year. Many young people attend New Year parties and there is a growing trend towards celebrating the New Year in Restaurants or Clubs where the meal and all-night entertainment are provided.
Los Reyes (The Kings) is the highlight of the festivities for the children. In department stores all over the country in the run up to the 6th of January, children tell the Kings what they would like to receive and parents go to great pains to hide the long desired gifts until the night of the fifth when they leave them out for the children to discover the following morning. The children, for their part, leave out food and drink to nourish the gift-bearing Kings during their nocturnal visit.
On the eve of Reyes the Kings parade through the town throwing sweets or little gifts to the children and on the day of the 6th, after the excitement of opening their presents, the extended family eats together and the sweet is, by tradition, "Roscon de Reyes" a ring-shaped rolled pastry decorated with fruit and nuts in which is hidden little "sorpresas" (surprises).
On the 7th, with a rude awakening, Spain returns to some semblance of normality. Schools re-open, the wheels of business trundle into action and los españoles (the Spanish) look forward to the next fiesta!
* And perhaps finding that 'Place in the Sun ' in 2008 when it will be a good time to buy for 'Life Style ' reasons