Just a few days left for these remarkable dates for a good part of the world, including Spain where Christmas (“Navidad”) is of course heavily celebrated, and not only in food terms. But beyond eating and drinking, and eating and drinking again, what things should you be aware of at this time of year?
Firstly, we ‘officially’ start the celebration on Christmas’ eve. Families and in some cases close friends that feel like relatives gather during the night of 24th of December (“Nochebuena”) to eat like they had not had any bit in the prior days. Since this meal requires preparation, time and travels, many organisations and businesses provide the day off or allow to leave the work place earlier. When this dinner is finished, for those with Catholic religious observance there is a mass at midnight (“Misa del Gallo”). After it, many churches provide Christmas’ sweets, just in case you still feel hungry.
A similar ritual (also using a sizeable part of the food prepared for the feast of the previous day) is replicated for the 25th of December in a more aligned way to the ‘Western’ Christianity. In this case, more people go to that day’s mass taking place primarily before lunch. Remember that our eating times are ‘delayed’ from those followed in other geographies, which means that lunch will easily not begin till 2 or 3pm. It must also be noted that church attendance decreases year after year in Spain as more and more people are either non-believers or non-goers to religious ceremonies (“no practicantes”).
In churches, houses and the ‘modern’ pilgrimage centers (malls and leisure venues), “Villancicos” (Christmas songs) are increasingly played as the C-Day approaches. Some venues even start with them before the end of November, adding up to the confusion we already have with climate change and Black Friday’s commercial exaltation. Online shops serving Spain could replicate that ‘mystical’ experience by making listening to those songs repeatedly mandatory while you are on their Website. Uuuummm, maybe we should do the same for next year as well!?
Like other places, it is now when you remember those you care about and are not regularly in touch with. Unfortunately, you might also have to ‘meet’ others you do not like that much because of the myriad of work, friends and associations gatherings that take place in the weeks prior to night of the 24th, for sure with food and drinks as partners in crime. And you thought you would easily arrive in a ‘lean’ condition before the previously mentioned Christmas’ feasts?
To add to all this eating and drinking whirlpool, after the ‘regular’ lunches you must still make some room for Christmas sweets, primarily “turrones” (nougats), “mazapanes” (marzipans), and “polvorones” (crumbly sweet made from flour, butter and sugar). Thank God there is also “cava” (Spanish version of sparkling wine) to help with the digestion!
Streets and houses are also decorated with lights, trees, candles, crowns, etc. The main contribution in that field from Spain is the “Belén” (Nativity Scene), a representation of Jesus Christ as a baby just after being born in a stable of Bethlehem. Besides its figure, you find other miniatures such as Mary and Joseph, shepherds, animals, Romans and, of course, our beloved Three Kings bringing gold, incense and myrrh to the new born prophet. “Los Reyes Magos” (The Three (Magical) Kings) are our equivalent to Santa Claus and children wait for them and their presents after the night of January 5. But that is another story…
Do you like Christmas? Any remark to be added to my observations? If Christmas is celebrated at your place of origin, do you find remarkable differences? Santa Claus or the Three Kings?
Photos: modern Chrstimas lights in Toledo. Almond “turrón” (nougat). A picture of a “Belén”.