You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2008.
New Year’s Eve: Probably the single biggest party event in the world. Independently of religion or believe, this seems to be the day that the largest amount of people globally have agreed to celebrate.
Dinner is of course spectacular. It seems like a revival of the Christmas Eve Dinner that I described in a recent post. Only that this time, mood is generally even happier and everyone has a bit of uncle Antonio. After all, we have had a lot of “dinner rehersals” over the past days.
The big moment comes. We are approaching midnight. You can welcome the new year at home with family and friends or in a bigger party, which we call “cotillon“. But the most fun is to celebrate in the streets.
In most countries the year enters with a countdown. We do it infront of the television, with the twelve bells from the midnight clock. There is the official clock in Madrid at the Puerta del Sol. By the way this is theoretically the exact center of Spain, with its “kilometro 0”. Most roads in Spain count their distances in km from this point. But that’s a different story…
The funniest and most peculiar tradition for new year are the twelve “lucky grapes”. One grape per bell tone. You might have heard about it and thought it was a myth. It is not. I promise. This year, the tradition has its 100 year anyversary, since it seems to have been initiated in 1909. The overstock of grapes of that year was distributed to celebrate the new year with the wish of prosperity. As you can imagine, a day or two before the 31st of December, grape prices sky rocket.
At midnight, everyone stares at the TV, waiting for the clock to ring the twelve bell tones. It would be too simple to just ring twelve times, and you would not need TV moderators for it. We like it complicated: first you have a lot of small bells that announce the four quarter bell tones. Then -surprise- you get the four quarter bell tones. Their are double tones (sort of “dind-dong”) so it is actually 8 tones. Then – FINALLY – the twelve tones of midnight. Everyone puts a grape in the mouth per bell tone. This all happens at high speed amd everyone is excited. Plus: twelve grapes is a lot. That is why, by the time the new year actually enters, 40 million people in Spain have their mouth full, absolutely full of grapes. We will consume about 1.500 tons of grapes in the 36,6 seconds that the procedure lasts all together. This is why “happy new year” in Spain is “fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”. This is more or less how “feliz año nuevo” sounds when your mouth is full. No matter how often you practice, how many times you tried to say Pamplona with a polvoron in your mouth. It is a mess. And it is terribly funny. We love it…
I have enjoyed new year’s eve in a few different countries in the world. No matter where and in what time zone I was: I always had my twelve grapes with me, and I always started the countdown at 12 to 12. And I always got funny looks from those around me. And last but not least, my new year always started with:
“fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”
Maybe this year I will try to have a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” Chardonnay-Albariño to spill down the grapes.
Salud and “fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”
The clock is ticking! You have your grapes ready? What do you mean “what do I mean”? Let me recover from the Christmas madness and I will soon tell you. Promised!
Hope you had a wonderful Christmas eve. I hope you have enjoyed and/or survived your traditions, your alc-punch, the food and the family.
We in Spain also have our traditions. Not better or worse. Like so often, just different. Lets look at a few:
FOOD: No, we will not eat Paella for Christmas. It is interesting, but we do not have a super-standard-Christmas-dinner, like a the USA-Turkey (By the way, it always sounded more like a soccer game than a menu for me… Anyhow). Dinner menu in Spain varies largely by region. But for dessert, we all have the world-famous turron. There are two versions of it: the hard one and the soft one. Both delicious. Selection is purely based on teeth and cheek strength. Other than turron, we have polvorones and mantecados. All of these delicious specities consist on honey and almonds. All are terribly tastefull and full of calories.
Ah! Don’t forget to practice Spains favourite Christmas sports: say “Pamplona” with the mouth full of polvorones. Quite a funny sports I must say…
DRINKS: Guess… yes of course we drink Spanish red and white wine with our dinner. But not that many people know about the outstanding sparkling wonder of spanish cellars. “CAVA”. Easier to pronounce than “Champagne”, at least half as expensive and equally tasteful. You don’t believe it? Find out yourself! Check out a bottle of e.g. Codorniu Cava. This is Spain’s oldest producer, and the inventor of Cava method (which is exactly the same than Champagne, but in Spain). I bet with you you won’t tell the difference. And if you do… boy, you missed a career as somelier, or you are just too posh for this world…
MUSIC: You will hardly hear me say anything negative about Spain. Not that I am biosed, there is just little negative to say;). But Christmas songs… Yoy have to know, that the ones in charge of carols in Spain are exclusively the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. But with the amount of sugar they get, and the fact that they have already been on vacation for a while by the time they get there, it can get a bit too much. Let me see if I can find an example for your -ehem- “enjoyment”. We should let them grow up, learn how to sing, come down from sugar and try again.
PRESENTS: Everywhere in the Christian world kids are now coming down from hyperactivity after an overdose of sweets and the excitement prior to the opening of the presents. Not in Spain! Yep: probably as a remainder of the dark years of sadistic Spanish inquisition, we keep them suffering a few weeks more. Until the 6th of January, to be precise. The three Magic Kings from orient (which indeed sounds like the party menu of a famous burger restaurant brand) are the ones in charge of the presents. That gives us Spaniards a bit more of time to get our presents.
BUT WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:
Some things though, seem to be definetly common to all of Spain, but also the parts of the world that I have the pleasure to celebrate Christmas in:
1) There is too much to eat and to drink
2) Dinner lasts for hours and hours
3) Uncle antonio gets terribly drunk and starts telling dirty jokes
4) Aunt Maria breaks up in tears because grandma used to love so much these reunions, and now she no longer here
5) Whoever has brought the most kids acts and feels the most important and is actually the most anoying
6) It is impossible to agree on music or which television program to watch
7) There is always someone who mentions, that we should enjoy each other and forget about TV/music (and he/she is right, though nobody listens).
But most importantly: great moments are shared, great feelings are in the air and something special covers the night when we all finally go to bed.
That is what we say in Spain these days. Or “Felices fiestas”, which my favorite politically correct american fellows call “happy holidays”.
I have had the pleasure to enjoy Christmas in many countries in the world. Something truly incredible is how many little funny traditions and habits gravitate around Christmas in any particular culture.
Germans, with their Avent calendars that hide a little something everyday on the way to Christmas Eve. Or their delicious obsession about baking cookies. A minimum of 50 different cookie-cut-out-shapes belong to every standard German home. NEVER accept the invitation to stay overnight in a German home with less than 50 cookie-cut-out-shapes in their kitchen. Something is for sure wrong with them. Run and don’t look back!
Americans, with their Carrols and the abusive use of colors and lights. Everybody knows that the Chinese wall is the one construction that can be seen from outer space. At night, that certainly applies to the average american home in its X-mas decoration (with a minimum of 15 reindeers + Rudolph in the frontyard). This might be one of the traditions that I am not sure if even mr president Obama will be able to change in his crusade against global warming (don’t worry Barrak, there is still plenty else to do).
Brits, with their socks by the chimney and the house full of candles, making sure that fireman are kept well busy over the holidays. Maybe Americans (i.e. Coca-Cola) invented the current image of Santa Claus. But one thing is sure: the country keeping alive the believe is the UK. How couldn’t they, if their kids get to see everyday the huge red noisy cars full of lights driving around their peacefull burning homes. This is not meant as an accusation, but I think someone stole the idea of oh-so-famous-Rudolph from the UK’s hyperactive fireman.
These are just a few examples. We will get to Spain. Mañana, of course. Meanwhile, I invite you to enjoy a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite red wine. And no, I will not be offended – rather honored – if you pick a Spanish wine to be part of the famous traditions of “Christmatizing” red wine. Be it the Swedish “Glog”, the German “Gluehwein” or the Polish “Roz Grozaniez” (sorry for the spelling). It is always a pleasure to be invited to be part of your Christmas traditions.
Salud y felices fiestas!