Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Festivities – Spanish Style (guest post)

The following is a guest post from Martin of the S&M Motel.  Thank-you Martin!  This is also the first guest post on DreamBigLiveBoldly.com.  If you’d like to be a guest contributor, please contact me.

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We are temporary inhabitants of the S&M Motel and I have so enjoyed the blogs from Patrick that I thought I would let you know what’s going on in Spain as the festive season approaches.

Like most places in the world with a Christian tradition, the towns and cities of Spain are becoming illuminated with decorations. Abstract swirly things suspended from lampposts, LED animals tethered to the roadside verges, along with traditional Christian and secular symbols (e.g. stockings, Santas and sleigh bells).  Nothing unusual there.

However. there is a tradition in Spain of building and displaying Beléns (Belén is Spanish for Bethlehem).  They look like an expanded version of a nativity scene. Their central focus is a tableau of the stable and its inhabitants, but from there the scene expands in time and space. Scenes depicting Gabriel telling Mary she was expecting, Herod’s edict to slaughter the innocents, the flight to Egypt, and Jesus at the temple are all somehow woven into a kitsch cardboard and plastic, seemingly fairly inflammable, toy town construction.

Municipalities compete for the grandest Belén.  In Malaga the city hall is open to the public.  Their 10 metre long Belén, guarded by the police, is admired by streams of people filing in to admire the display. This is not just for kids.  The crowds include courting couples, businessmen, and elderly people, photographing and discussing the arrangement of the little town (literally) of Bethlehem.

The 10 metre Belén in Malaga City Hall

The 10 metre Belén in Malaga City Hall

Beléns are big business.  Every home should have one. Stalls sell figurines, prefabricated stables, watermills, bushes, trees, and anything else you can imagine (and some you can’t) to build a mega model nativity. The most bizarre figure we saw for sale was a Boxcar Willy lookalike on a rocking chair peeling an orange. There are grown men out at night hunting through hundreds of shepherds, Marys, baby Jesuses, camels, wise men, and carpentry shops for the perfect addition to their own private Beléns.

Close up of Belén Figurines

Belén figurines, individually priced and ready to go!

The other odd thing about continental European festivals — I make the distinction because we are from a bit of Europe that happens not to be on the continent — is the liberal detonation by children of street fireworks. I don’t know what happens in Canada, but in the old country one has to hold a special licence, have a safe piece of ground separated from the public, and have a damn good reason to let off any pyrotechnic device, let alone the cheap Chinese ones thrown around by the children of the continent.

These things (the fireworks not the children) are for sale from street market stalls that also sell other festive novelties, for example, father Christmas costumes for dogs, fake dog poo (always a crowd pleaser), and the ever popular self-inflating whoopee cushion.

Although some of these novelties are taken home and presumably treasured by generations to come, many of the fireworks are for instant use. The kids are bought bags of sweetie-looking whizzers, rockets, bangers, and buzzers (along with a novelty cigarette lighter) by doting parents and immediately set to the task of lighting and throwing them as quickly as possible. The streets are littered with discarded wrappers and spent casing. Some older people object, particularly in the case of shock or injury, but it doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm for the sport among the young.

One can only wonder at the number of times that a wayward firework has resulted in the devastation of a lovingly created Belen…… still they all seem to be having a merry time, bless.

Have a safe Christmas,

S&M

Europe Phase 1

After a brief stop in Southampton to visit family, we made it back safely to Canada in time for Christmas. We’re still dealing with the jet lag and trying to get used to the cold. We have our car insured and cell phone activated and we’re staying with generous friends until we return to Europe soon for Phase 2. We’re looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the holidays, and getting back in shape.

When contemplating Europe we anticipated rich history, grand sights, interesting culture, and great food. We experienced all of these things. We knew that travel would be much easier than in the developing world, and it was, despite some bad weather and vehicle problems. We had hoped, against the odds, for nicer weather. After the first week of September, temperatures where we traveled ranged from 2 to 23 degrees Celsius. Pleasant enough if it’s not raining, but cold at night. We were glad that we brought our down coats and gortex jackets! Phase 2 should be warmer and drier.

Because of the cold weather, we spent less time enjoying the nature of Europe and more time in the cities. We look forward to more hiking and for Patrick, climbing and mountaineering, when we return. Also the beautiful alpine views, great beaches, and swimming in the lakes and oceans.

We met fewer people (locals and tourists) than on previous trips because we were traveling by RV (i.e. not staying in hotels, not eating out as much, and only staying in campgrounds some of the time). In Phase 2, we will make more of a conscious effort to connect with people. If you have friends or family in Europe, we would love to meet them. We don’t expect anything, and would greatly appreciate the opportunity to get to know the people of Europe. If you’re thinking of traveling to Europe next summer, let us know and perhaps we can meet up?

Despite leaving a bunch of stuff in the S&M Motel, we found that our backpacks were crammed for the return trip. I’m not sure how this is possible when the only thing that I purchased in 4 months was Bombay Sapphire (gin) at the duty free store. Perhaps Diane’s new boots and clothes are the reason.

During our hiatus we’ll focus on planning for next year, getting our finances in order, getting back in shape, and spending time with family and friends. I will continue to blog. I’ve got a lot of postings partially written that I will finish and share, and lots more ideas. If you’re following the blog, please stay subscribed. As always, your comments on the blog are greatly appreciated.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!