Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Saints and suchlike

There are a lot of Catholic saints. One for every day of the year with plenty to spare. Not that long ago if you were born in Spain on such and such a date then the saints for that day were a good name choice. I could have been Felix or Fulgencio for instance. If your parents decided to go with a different name then you get a second birthday, just like a Royal. So, as my parents went for Christopher, I could celebrate in July as well as on the day of my birth in January.

Not all saints have the same clout. San Anton, for instance, gets a lot of attention. He's the saint for animals and there's a lot of blessing of pets all over Spain, in his name, each January. San Isidro, the saint who looks after workers, is another popular one. There are lots and lots of widely celebrated saint's days. On the other hand, San Esteban, Saint Stephen, so popular with we Britons, is a forgotten man in Spain. And whatever words Shakespeare chose to put into Henry V's mouth Crispin Crispian's day does go by largely unremembered on 25th October. Well, except in Elche, because he's the patron saint of shoemakers and shoemaking, and they still do a lot of that there.

February 3rd is San Blas, Blaise in English, and that's celebrated in a fair number of towns around here. Today, for instance, in Sax, the Moors and Christians processions walked under an illuminated sign that said Sax for San Blas.

I read something on the Pinoso Town Hall website that was surprising in a couple of ways. It said that local bakers prepare a special bread for San Blas that is good as protection against throat ailments. In order for this to work properly the dough has to be blessed by a priest. There were pictures of our parish priest doing just that at a local bakery. The piece mentioned a specific bakery and showed pictures of the bread. It was very fancy as you can see from their picture.

Despite my years here I'd never heard of the bakery, the piece said that it is in a very small village on the outskirts of Pinoso, so, this morning, we went looking for it intending to buy some of the bread. Google maps had a location but there didn't seem to be a bakery there. We wandered around the village a bit and actually saw a delivery van from the bakery with an address on the side. The address was where Google maps had directed us in the first place but it just looked like an ordinary house. By ordinary I mean it had pot gnomes outside. I wasn't brave enough to knock on the door to ask.

Oh, and if you had made your own bread to ward off the sore throats then you could have taken that to church this evening, after Eucharist, and got it blessed. Or I suppose you could do what my mum says and eat chocolate with slices of orange.


Myriam said...

Hi! So interesting.
San Esteban is celebrated a lot in Catalonia.
Be brave and knock the door. It is how it works around here... and they will be pleased if you do. (Weird to me, too, specially because I think they stare at you when they don't know who you are and where do you come from, and that is not comfortable. I'd love to know your opinion about this, staring. In Spain, compared with GB. I have the impression that here it is intimidating sometimes. Is it to you?).

I didn't know about all this bread and I'm coming to Pinoso since I was a child. Casas de Ibañez! And that priest blessing the bread. Shouldn't he be wearing as a priest?

I've found this website with the recipe:

And they say it is typical in Yecla. And look at this:
" está también bendecido, se le atribuyen poderes curativos para gargantas acatarradas,..."

¿"Si está bien bendecido"? Could something be "mal bendecido"? Maybe, if the bread doesn't cure your throat, they think that was the reason.

Sorry to write so much.

Chris Thompson said...

Well, I suppose if the priest were not good at his job it could be badly blessed.

Spaniards are much less concerned about watching someone pass than we Britons are. In the UK if someone walks around wearing a top hat or dressed strangely most people will pretend not to notice. So if Spanish people do stop to have a look or make it obvious that they are looking then we would find it a little odd and maybe intimidating.