24/12/2008

Christmas Greetings from Frigiliana


¡Feliz Navidad! a todos mis leyentes. Os deseo un Próspero Año Nuevo.

21/12/2008

Navidad, El Gordo, Los Reyes and everything


Today is the final Sunday in Advent, and so tomorrow Spanish minds turn properly to Christmas. The week starts with a momentous event which will have the majority of Spaniards glued to their TV sets from early morning. The 22nd December is the day when El Gordo (The Big One) lottery is drawn. Over one billion euros will be paid out in prizes, with the top prize well over one hundred million euros. The draw starts at eight am, and as each number is drawn it is sung out by one of a team of children; ticket holders check each number against their ticket. In fact, most people don't have a whole ticket but a share, usually a 'decimo' or tenth of a ticket. Many people will club together to buy a decimo. This is because each full ticket costs €200, hence the huge sum in the prize fund which means that even holding just one tenth of a decimo will bring you a fortune if that number wins the top prize.

Next comes La Noche Buena, as Christmas Eve is called. This is when the big family get together and meal takes place. From round six o'clock families and friends gather in the local bars to begin the celebration with a few drinks, before heading to the home where the meal is served - langoustines to start the meal, then either suckling pig, baby lamb or baby goat. At midnight the family is to be found in their local church for La Misa del Gallo - midnight mass - after which the party resumes until three or four in the morning; Christmas Day by comparison is a very quiet affair. These days the children will receive a present from Papa Noel, but the main present-giving time is not for another twelve days.

Before that we have to celebrate La Noche Vieja (the old night, or New Year's Eve). It is a time to secure your luck for the coming year. To do this you must eat twelve grapes at midnight, one grape with each stroke of the clock; or you can wear red underwear; or to be on the safe side you can do both!

Los Reyes ( the Feast of the Epiphany; 6th January) is when children receive their main presents, brought by the Kings/Wise Men who brought gifts for the baby Jesus. The night before (the 5th) they arrive in the village on their mules (camels being in very short supply in these parts!), tossing sweets to the children. Actually 'tossing' is the wrong word; boiled sweets are hurled by the handful into the crowd, so that for faint hearts like me, the route becomes a hard hat area. That night the children leave their shoes on the doorstep like British children hang up their stockings.

After that it's all quiet until Carneval, Shrove Tuesday, also celebrated with gusto, but that's another story and another posting!

In the meantime, os deseo un Feliz Navidad y un Próspero Año Nuevo.

13/12/2008

Christmas in Malaga


Yesterday we caught the bus into Malaga and booked into a hotel for the night. This gave us the opportunity to spend some time enjoying the Christmas lights and the Beléns which are a feature of Spanish Christmases. The main area of lighting and decoration ran from the bridge over the Guadalmina, along the Alameda, up Avenida Larios and into Plaza de la Constitución. First we strolled the route in daylight and then returned after dark. At night the effect was stunning.
We also went to see two of the Beléns, one built by one of the cofradias (the penitent brotherhoods who process through the streets during Holy Week, and the other the official Málaga Belén in the town hall. I've posted some photos here to give you a flavour of the season.

11/12/2008

Decadence!

Yesterday the jacuzzi arrived. It was craned in from the car park behind us and deposited gently on the roof terrace extension that we had had reinforced to accommodate it. It's been heating up the water overnight and this afternoon my wife inaugurated it with a twenty minute session of blasting jets and blowers, luxuriating in the warm water on a sunny December afternoon. What's more, she tells me that it even has a sea view! What more could you ask for - oh yes, it has a little shelf that will accept four wine glasses!

06/12/2008

Sunny Days

The cold snap ended yesterday just as quickly as it had begun. From daytime temperatures around 11 or 12 degrres with overnight lows of 2 or 3 degrees, yesterday we had a high of 19 with an overnight low of 11; today we reached 20 degrees. So once again we were able to sit out on our side terrace for breakfast and for lunch, and my sweater is back in the drawer. Friends came over for lunch, and we all sat out in the sun until they left just before 5 o'clock.

02/12/2008

Nativity Scenes

The beginning of Advent, and the beginning of December are the signal to Spaniards to start thinking about Christmas. The traditional flower is the poinsettia and they are used in huge numbers. The central reservations of dual carriageways, and roundabouts are suddenly carpeted in brilliant red. They appear on balconies, in shops and restaurants, just about everywhere.
Now also heralds the appearance of Belens, as nativity scenes are called here. Belen translates into English as Bethlehem, and when you see your first Belen you realise why. Where in England you are treated to a stable, Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus and assorrted farm animals, in Spain you are presented with the town of Bethlehem, complete with local shops, workshops, parks, farms, Roman soldiers manning the local fort, shepherds out on the hills with their sheep... just about everything you could imagine. Not just static; the blacksmith is hammering out a horseshoe, the weaver is weaving, the baker is kneading his dough. One was featured on the local television channel last night, which involved 9,000 separate items and covers thirtyfive square metres.
I'll be keeping my camera with me for when I come across some Belens, and then hopefully I'll be able to post some photos here.