Las Navidades

The Christmas season is in full swing now that the Day of the Constitution and the Immaculate Conception are behind us. So on Friday evening we settled down in the parish church for a concert of villancicos, the Spanish equivalent of Christmas carols, performed by Frigiliana's own choir and by five visiting choirs from surrounding villages. Spanish folk singing has a very nasal quality, like flamenco, and enthusiasm seems to count for more than musicality, so that the church reverberated to the sound of strident voices, rattling tambourines, energetic drumming and guitars.
On Saturday evening our local Polish restaurant put on a special Polish Christmas menu, and ten of us went together to enjoy it. I even won a T-shirt in the free draw!
Yesterday, my wife's Anglican church down in Nerja held their annual service of lessons and carols at four o'clock, after which we were back to the parish church here in the village at eight o'clock for a concert of Christmas music by the Banda Música de Frigiliana, the village band, accompanying the students of the village music school, which develops the next generation of band members.
After a deafening opening medley of Christmas music (the band usually plays in the open air, accompanying processions around the village, and thus has never heard the term 'pianissimo', we were treated to a stream of children coming forward to demonstrate their prowess to fond parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, - everyone, really. The oldest, I guess, would be 11 or 12, and the youngest probably 6 or 7. We listened attentively to clarinets, flutes, saxophones, keyboards, and each performer received enthusiastic and prolonged applause, even the keyboard player who hesitantly tapped out a one-finger verse of Jingle Bells; next year he'll be much more accomplished! What delights me about the Spanish attitude to children is that they are brought up to believe in themselves, and are given all available credit for whatever they have been able to achieve so far.
Tomorrow will be one of the most important days of the run-up to Christmas; every Spaniard who is able to do so, will be glued to the TV tomorrow morning for the draw, over a period of several hours, of the Christmas lottery, also known as El Gordo, though in fact that name properly belongs only to the massive first prize. Tickets cost €200 each, but are usually sold as decimos (tenths) at €20. By tradition, scholars from the school of San Ildefenso in Madrid operate in relays to sing out the winning numbers as they are drawn. The total prize fund this year is a mind-blowing €2.3billion, and El Gordo will doubtless change the life of some village or barrio for ever. We have our ticket, and we too shall be glued to the TV!

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