SO where will you be unwrapping your socks and chocs this Yuletide? Will yours be a ‘Feliz Navidad’ or do you still think the Brussels sprouts are greener on the other side of Europe?
If you’re giving the joys of Squeezyjet a swerve this year, be aware that lively Spanish resorts turn into spooky ghost towns on Christmas Eve, the one fiesta the Spanish stay in for. December 25 is another non-event because, in traditional mañana fashion, they prefer to honour the Three Kings on January 6 who arrived two years late for the birth of Jesus.
Nor does turkey usually make an appearance on the festive Spanish table (and if you’ve ever tried fitting one into a Spanish oven, you’ll know why). But you’ll find plenty of local fare to get your teeth into – literally so, if it’s turrón, a chewy almond confection that performs extractions more efficiently than any dentist.
During my first Christmas here, I couldn’t fathom why people got so excited about the Town Hall Balloon. Only one? A bit stingy, I thought. Until someone took me to see a belén and the céntimo dropped. These nativity scenes are fantastically intricate creations with real running water and electric sheep!
You’ll quickly add new words and phrases to your Spanish vocabulary – like ¡Cállate! when the local kids regale you with villancicos (out-of-tune folk carols) accompanied by zambombas (anis bottles scraped with sticks to produce an excruciating grating sound).
The Catalans have added their own seasonal spin with a Yule log known as Caga Tió. That’s Sh*t Log in English (or, for more delicate sensibilities, Poop Log), perhaps due to a visual similarity but let’s not go there. (It certainly put me off buying another Bûche de Noël.)
Throughout December, Catalan children look after this sh*t-shaped log which has a face and wears a silly hat. They keep it warm under a blanket and feed it fruit and nuts so that, on Christmas Eve, it will ‘poop’ presents when sung to and given a good thrashing with a stick. Yes, it’s the one time of year when children are actively encouraged – by their parents – to beat up their toys and use the ‘Sh*t’ word. They’re a weird lot, the Catalans …but then, a lot of them come from Barcelona…
On the plus side, unlike Britain, you won’t find a santa mugging you for money in every shop doorway. The weather’s better too and, though it may not be bikini weather, it can be fun to wear one when Skyping the folks back home, just to watch them turn Brussels sprout green with envy…
- But a word of advice. If it really is swimsuit weather and you’re planning a Dickensian-style Christmas al fresco, don’t! Because:
- Wrestling with a bird the size of a small albatross on a wonky patio table is no picnic.
- Where do your guests tuck their festive napkins? (Gravy in the belly button is not an appetising sight).
- After all your hard work, there will always be someone who comes out with the crass remark: “You know, it doesn’t feel Christmassy with all this sunshine.”
- ¡Feliz Navidad! These are the strangest Christmas traditions celebrated in Spain
- Expert tips on how to choose great festive wines from Spain to try this Christmas