December 24, 2008


This will now be our third Christmas in Andalucia and our second in a real Spanish home. P and I have been invited once again to spend the holiday with the family of two students we got to know really well in the course of our mutual language studies - theirs in English and ours in Spanish. But that’s another story...

Their family home is a large country house or finca set amid orange groves outside Gaucin, one of the many attractive pueblos blancos or whitewashed villages in the hills far inland from the coast - large enough for the extended family comprising parents, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. Quite a household!

The house will be traditionally decorated with a real fir tree complete with baubles and tinsel but no Christmas cards. (The Spanish don’t do cards; when face-to-face contact isn’t possible, they prefer to exchange greetings by phone - even email.) Pride of place will go instead to the belén or nativity scene, a lovingly preserved family heirloom. This is spread out on a table in the living room and, instead of opening pages on an Advent calendar each day as is the custom in countries like Germany, the grandchildren will move the figures of the los Reyes Magos closer and closer to the stable.

The most important meal of our Spanish Christmas will be the one served on Christmas Eve when we’ll sit down with the rest of the extended family to eat our way through a gigantic meal lasting several hours. Though the main dish may vary elsewhere - turkey, lamb or fish - here it is always the same: suckling pig. We’ll also be offered a lot of shellfish! For dessert, there’ll be several varieties of turrón, Spanish-style nougat. In fact, turrón will be everywhere in the house - all washed down by litre after litre of cava, Spanish champagne.

The midday meal on Christmas Day is yet another opportunity for a huge feast, after which ‘our’ family will restock the larder and use up any left-overs in the brief break before the next huge celebration - New Year’s Eve. Which this year everyone will be spending with us...

A very traditional Spanish Christmas.

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