When Cultural Characters Conflict

Published on 02/07/2007 in Spanish Culture

My twin girls are five years old, attend Spanish school and inevitably will soon be losing their milk teeth. So, who will collect the teeth? Do we wait for our own familiar tooth fairy or do we invite Ratoncito (little mouse) Pérez around to collect the tooth like the rest of their Spanish classmates? We haven’t reached this point yet but when we do I suppose we are going to have to play it by ear and wait to see if they mention the little mouse collecting their friends teeth. One option is to have the fairy arrive on mouse back!

We face the same dilemma every Christmas. Do we write to Father Christmas for the whole sack or just a token present and just hope that the Three Kings don’t overlook us because we are English? What tends to happen in most British families in Spain is that the emphasis continues to be placed on the 25th December with Father Christmas arriving on the eve as usual and then they receive a few bits and bobs on January 6th when The Three Kings arrive. So the British children in Spain do pretty well around this time of year and the poor parents have to plan for two days of present receiving.

The problem is for me, by the start of the new year I find it really hard to be enthusiastic about celebrating a Christmas Day again on the 6th and it feels very unnatural to open presents. But when your children attend Spanish school, you don’t want them to feel too “different” from their classmates when it is discussed in class so you just go along with it no matter how odd it feels. If you are new to Spain and are expecting to see Father Christmas wondering about his grotto in the nearby shopping centres, prepare to be disappointed as he is impossible to track down in Spain. Instead, on the 5th January in the evening the Kings parade through the streets on their cavalcade throwing thousands of sweets at the children. Oh, the tooth fairy would not be pleased or is that Ratoncito Perez?

Well, the tooth fairy and Ratoncito Perez will be pleased to know that there is no Easter Bunny in Spain. Easter is purely a religious occasion in Spain and is not traditionally a time to hunt for chocolate eggs and gorge yourselves until you feel sick as we do in the UK.

The Spanish aren’t as fickle as us Brits when it comes to characters in popular culture. In the UK, children have a new fave from whatever programme is most popular that year or even season. However, in Spain children are still enjoying the cartoons and the characters that their parents loved including Dogtanian and The MuscaHounds and even the classic Heidi. That is not to say that some of our own home grown Teletubbies and the like have not infiltrated into the culture but they still stock the shelves with Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse DVDs as the children and their parents are loyal to their old favourites.

Whether you decide to follow the Spanish cultural traditions where your children are concerned or stick with the familiarity of your own is entirely up to you. If you are anything like me, you will attempt to do a combination of both. However, be warned, if you are not careful this can work out pretty expensive, especially at Christmas when your children expect presents from both The Kings and Father Christmas.


Written by: Susan Pedalino

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Women In Spain




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