Tag Archives: Spanish

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

The Spanish Schedule

On the whole, Spanish people wake later than North Americans. They don’t eat a big breakfast, perhaps coffee and some toast, before beginning their work day around 9 AM. Later in the morning, around 11 AM, they take a break and have a snack, often accompanied by some wine. They stop work for lunch at around 2 PM, returning home if possible for a heavy lunch (2 or more courses) followed by a siesta. The siesta is a short mid-afternoon nap usually taken on a couch rather than in bed, for a maximum of 20-30 minutes.

Most Spanish adults (about 80 percent) keep with the custom of having a siesta in the middle of the afternoon. They then return to work around 4 PM and work until 7 or 8 PM. Dinner is eaten around 10 PM and is less filling than lunch. It is often followed by a walk. So they Spanish stay up late. Spanish prime time television on week nights does not begin until midnight! The average Spaniard sleeps about 40 minutes less per day (in total) than the average European. Perhaps this is why then need a nap!

Some people don’t follow the tradition of the siesta. Children have school hours similar to those in North America, returning home in late afternoon around the end of their parent’s siesta. But they stay up late like their parents, eating dinner at 10 PM, and can often be seen playing in the street after this time (on a school night!). Also, people working for multi-national corporations typically keep the American work schedule.

The siesta developed in an age when most people worked close to their homes. Those who commute long distances to work today are often without a place for siesta. They can be seen wandering about or napping on park benches while they wait to return to work. Apparently beauty salons and day spas are popular as people go there after lunch for a manicure or pedicure and a quick nap while receiving it.

As a result of the siesta, shops and government offices typically open at 9 or 10 AM, close for 2 or 3 hours in the afternoon, and remain open until about 7 or 8 PM.

Restaurants don’t usually open for lunch until 1:30 or 2 PM. Any restaurant serving dinner before 9 PM is strictly for tourists. The staff don’t even sit down for their pre-work meal until after 8 PM. If you want to eat before 9 or 10 PM, a good option is to eat several tapas while enjoying a drink in a bar.

Although both the Italian and French take long lunch breaks, the Spanish are the only ones to make a habit of the siesta. It’s perhaps a natural by-product of the hot summer weather — rest when it is hot in the afternoon and be more active in the evening when it is cooler.

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
Indian Proverb

If I’m going to eat a big meal, I think that it’s probably healthier to have it in the middle of the day (but when I’ve tried this, I often end up eating a big late dinner also, so that kind of defeats the purpose). I think it also lowers stress to take a break in the middle of the day, step away from work (even for a short while), and relax.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
From the Latin “si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi” meaning, “if you are in Rome, live in the Roman way; if you are elsewhere, live as they do there”.
Advice given by St. Ambrose to Augustine of Hippo in the 4th Century, AD.

So, how have we adapted to the Spanish schedule? We’ve found that we’ve naturally started to stay up later and sleep in later. We’re also eating our meals later. It’s 10:15 PM now and Diane is just serving our supper. When we went out for lunch the other day in Barcelona we had a 3 course meal, and even though it was vegetarian, we were stuffed for hours afterwards, requiring only a light dinner. So far, we haven’t retreated back to the S&M Motel for a siesta, but perhaps that’s next.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

Proverb

I think I’ll go take a nap.