Rachel´s Wanderings in Spain 13 Christmas in Spain, Then and Now
When we first moved to inland Andalucia in 1996 it was like we had stepped back in time 30 years or so. Christmas, the little that was made of it, started the week leading up to Christmas. January 6th or Day of the Kings was the main celebration and present giving time and Christmas Eve evening was a family get together.
Street decorations were few and meagre and the only day off was Christmas Day, when most of our neighbours picked their olives as it was a free day from their normal work. Even now Christmas Day is usually busy in the olive groves – albeit not as early as on other days.
When the olive oil factories are only open for a certain duration the harvest has to be gathered in during that time. This varies each year depending on the maturity of the fruit as to when they begin and the quantity of the harvest as to how long the factories remain open.
If the harvest season is dry it is incredibly hard work as they work every single day to bring in the crop. If there are rainy days it takes longer but the workers get a break! Like today. Unusually it is pouring down. If you are an olive picker and have been longing for a day off, this is it! Rain and wind, umbrella killing weather. But you do get a rest!
These days Christmas begins at the end of November, shops stock seasonal goods earlier than ever and the streets are illuminated and decorated with it seems like more and more lights each year. In my hamlet they have expanded up and down the road. Christmas Trees feature alongside the time-honoured Nativity Scenes in most homes and the majority of children get presents on both Christmas Day and Reyes – Day of the Kings.
My own Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Day with a traditional English Christmas Lunch and that works out just fine. My sons go to their girlfriend´s houses on Christmas Eve, eat far too much and far too late then we meet on late Christmas morning for our present giving and for them to eat too much again. Then they have to work (me too) on Boxing Day which does not exist!
It is them I feel sorry for! Two celebrations in two days but it is also great because they have a traditional Spanish one and then a traditional English one which the Spanish girlfriends love.
New Year´s Eve is also get together time for families and at midnight it´s grape popping time. One grape in the mouth on each strike of the midnight chimes – eat them all if you can for good luck! If you can´t it could be bad luck all year! It is not an easy feat and you should also be wearing red underwear for good luck in the New Year. I won´t be letting you see whether I am or not!