Monday, December 24, 2012
We were watching the news on the telly over the weekend. We saw both la Sexta and Cuatro. Each of them had reporters at an airport to watch arriving friends and family being hugged and kissed. Families and Christmas. Same tradition, same idea.
The el Gordo lottery came and went. We usually have one ticket which wins back its stake or turns in a small profit but this year nothing, nada, zilch; not a sausage. There were the usual scenes of rejoicing outside the lottery shops. The radio and TV interviewers found lots of people who were on the dole and who'd won 400,000€ for their 20€ stake. One chap had bought the whole ticket made up of ten fractional tickets and handed them out to his family or swapped the tenths with friends; 4 million euros in the family. The Government will tax winnings from next year but this time it's still tax free.
We went to the coast yesterday. It was a pleasant sunny day with temperatures in the high teens. We sat outside in the sun for a coffee. I had to go back to the car to abandon my jacket, I was too hot. From the coast we went on to a shopping centre. It was like the seventh circle of hell. Thousands of people wandering hither and thither and showing every emotion from pure joy to seething rage. Shops aren't usually open on a Sunday in Spain. Whether they were buying or just indulging the Spanish characteristic of enjoying being with crowds of people I'm not sure. The radio is full of stories of people spending less on Christmas.
Boxing Day, the 26th, is just another working day. The big days for the family meals are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Gift giving is much less prevalent than in the UK; for family and especially for children of course but for work colleagues, next door neighbours, acquaintances much less so. Christmas cards are a rarity - not a one from any of my students or colleagues. Santa Claus tussles with the three Kings as the principal gift giver. Polvorones, mantecados and turrón instead of, Christmas pudding, mince pies or Christmas cake. There are Christmas lights and Christmas trees but they are not de rigeur whilst a nativity scene, the Belén is. No town would think it had celebrated Christmas properly without putting up a Belén but most of the Christmas trees in the street are now cones of LED lights rather than a real tree. There are none of those houses dressed up with enough lights to make EDF Energy, or Iberdrola, smile. There are Christmas carols and Christmas songs but, mercifully there are no equivalents to Slade, Wizard and Jona Lewie to make the supermarket shop even more onerous. The Christmas number one isn't a news story. Holly, robins and miseltoe get the occasional look in but there is no obvious association with Christmas and thinking of miseltoe the works do is nearly always a meal out and does not involve photocopied buttocks or worrying that the Christmas groping may leave you without a job next year.
So Christmas is just the same and yet completely different. We do, of course, wish each other Felíz Navidad y prospero año nuevo without any thought for the political correctness of the sentiment and that's what I wish you now.