Goodness, another year almost over and 2013 is looming! I hope it is an incredible year for everyone.
For those of you who intend to enjoy the Costa del Sol during the Christmas and New Year period here are a few interesting facts and snippets of information to help you with the Spanish way of celebrating Christmas and New Year.
Christmas in Spain is quite a delight. The holiday period starts up in mid-December and it does not seem to finish until after January 6th. There is the huge multi-billion euro lottery El Gordo, where you can spend several hours glued to the TV watching
small children pulling wooden lottery balls out of a big revolving cage, only to discover that you havent won El Gordo yet again this year.
There are also the fantastic nativity scenes, (Look out for the crapper, El Caganer this little figure has been defecating in the background of Nativity scenes since at least the 17th century and the tradition has stuck in Spain and parts of Southern France).
In Spain most people go to Midnight Mass (La Misa del Gallo). The Mass of the Cockerel, apparently a cockerel crowed the night that Jesus was born. On this important Eve most families eat their main Christmas meal before the Midnight Mass service.
Lots of food is the order of the day and turkey as the main course meal of the dinner. The traditional Spanish Christmas dinner is Pavo Trufado de Navidad, this is turkey which is stuffed with truffles. Mushrooms can be used instead. The popularity of
Turkey as a Christmas dinner item has declined over the years and although the use of pork has increased the Spaniards have recently had a deep likening for Lamb roasts. Our Guest Chef Matthew has all the details on Pavo Trufado de Navidad for you on the recipe page. In some other parts of Spain sea food is the most popular meal, especially in Galicia, which is a region in the north west of the country. Lots of different types of seafood are eaten, including lobster and the small edible crabs.
The Spanish seem to feel that this night is really very special and not meant for sleeping. Traditional sweets such as Turron and Marzipan are very popular and given as gifts and enjoyed by all.
Christmas day tends to be a quiet time of gathering thoughts and for enjoying family and it is not until the 28th of December which is the Day of the Innocent Saints (Día de los Santos Inocentes) that things start to liven up. This is a day of celebration which seems to be exclusively Spanish. It is a day which is very similar to April Fools day in other parts of the western world where people try to trick each other into believing balmy and asinine stories and funny jokes.
Apparently if you manage to trick someone then you have the right to call them innocent (Inocente). The 28th is also the day when people remember the babies that were killed on the orders of King Herod.
New Years Eve (Nochevieja or The Old Night) is the most exciting night of all. The Spanish celebrate this night with real enthusiasm and seem to party all night. There is one special tradition which is to eat 12 grapes with the 12 strokes of midnight. It seems that each grape represents a month for the coming year. If you manage to eat all 12 grapes, which is quite a feat I can tell you, (I have tried it), then you are said to be lucky for the whole New Year.
For some of the younger people the festival of the Epiphany is the most important time as it is on the 6th January that the three Kings or Wise men brought gifts to the new born child. This is the twelfth night of Christmas and is commonly known in Spain as the Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages the party of the three magic Kings. Children do have some presents on Christmas day but the majority of the family gifts are given and opened at Epiphany. Many children believe that the Kings bring them the presents and they write letters to the Kings on the 26th of December with their requests. On the evening of the 5th they often leave their shoes on the window sills or the balconies and sometimes under the Christmas tree in the hope that they will be filled with all sorts of presents.
Children leave a gift for the Kings in the form of a glass of brandy for each King and perhaps a satsuma or some nuts. Because the Kings will travel on camels a bucket of water is often left out. If the children have been naughty then bits of coal made out of
sugar will also be amongst the presents. A special cake called Roscón is eaten at Epiphany. Roscón means ring shape roll. Roscón can be filled with cream or chocolate and contain a little gift.
Well whatever you are doing I hope you have a wonderful time and may I wish you all the very best for the New Year.
The 3 Kings are:-
Balthazar, who has black skin and a black beard (or no beard!) and wears a purple cloak. He is the King of Tarse and Egypt. Balthazar represents the gift of Myrrh that was brought to Jesus.
Myrrh is a perfume that is put on dead bodies to make them smell nice and showed that Jesus would suffer and die.
Melchior, who has long white hair and a white beard and wears a gold cloak. He is the King of Arabia. Melchior represents the Gold brought to Jesus. Gold is associated with Kings and Christians believe that Jesus is the King of Kings.
Gaspar, who has brown hair and a brown beard (or no beard!) and wears a green cloak and a gold crown with green jewels on it. He is the King o fSheba. Gaspar represents the Frankincense brought to Jesus. Frankincense is sometimes used in worship in Churches and showed that people worship Jesus