“FELIZ NAVIDAD,” shouts a slender Spanish teenager dressed in a jolly red suit. The slim Santa Claus had flung open the door of Starbucks and announced his well wishes to workers and customers alike. Christmas is on its way.
The street lamps are laced with swirly frames of light bulbs which illuminate in the evenings. Plaza Nueva dons a faux Christmas tree looming in the corner of City Hall. At dusk, it too ignites with Christmas electricity.
Speaking of lights, I finally decided, after falling down the steps at work, that turning on the lights in the stairwell would be a good idea. I have also decided that getting a tree for our apartment would be festive. In The grand old USA the trees are a dime a dozen. No, actually, they have ridiculously inflated prices. My point is they are easy to find at home. Here, it’s not so easy.
It’s not that Spaniards don’t like trees in their homes. Trees are quite popular here, that is – Christmas trees, but they are often artificial. They can be purchased in small Asian corner stores or the larger department stores. If you want a real tree you’re going to have to walk yourself over to the florist.
In the meantime, getting a Poinsettia plant isn’t a bad idea. Originally called the Mexican Flame Tree (even though it’s from Egypt?), these iconic red plants are very symbolic of Christmas. They have a nice story about a little girl offering these ordinary roadside flowers to the church on Christmas Eve. Her gift of love was so appreciated that the “weeds” immediately blossomed upon being placed on the altar. These trees have since been bred down to fit on our kitchen tables or on the window sills which really created their popularity boom.
And since we’re talking about breeding, let’s talk about people that shouldn’t be involved in this activity…I saw a woman on the shopping street basically holding her child upside down, gnawing on his foot. Wait, that didn’t come out right. She had him in a downward embrace with his little blue sock, and its contents, in her mouth. Yep that’s pretty accurate. Oh, still sounds weird? That’s because IT WAS. I thought humans were one of those species that didn’t really dig the cannibalism thing. To each their own, I guess. It really gives new meaning to the mushy gushy phrase, “you’re so cute; I just want to eat you up!” Maybe no one told that lady about figurative and colloquial sayings.
Back to Christmas… Plaza Nueva and Plaza San Francisco are both full of miniature clay mushrooms and hay… and some other things I guess; like little baby Jesus’. I’m finding out that Christmas in Spain is about Jesus, not Santa. What a novel idea. Christmas is also about collecting figurines – Mary, Joseph, representation of their dinner that night, etc. – for your nativity scene and about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard that song, but for the first time last Tuesday I actually ate a roasted chestnut. Turns out they’re warm and soft in the middle, just like you.