Well, it’s January 7th and Christmas will soon be over. And about time, too.
Here in Spain the festivities begin back in early December: the Inmaculada is the 8th, but it tends to link up with the national Día de la Constitución on the 6th and there begins to be a general feeling that everyone’s getting psyched up for the holidays.
From then on it gets difficult to organise business meetings as everyone is busy with Christmas lunches and sherry parties and the giving of the hampers. (Once, just once in nearly twenty years, I’ve been entitled to receive a hamper; the booze came in useful, but the vast quantities of dead pig were a little excessive, and the giant tin of fruit cocktail was simply surreal.)
Although Christmas Eve is a normal working day, that’s when the big family meal happens – late in the evening. This makes more sense when you realise that there’s no incentive for the kids to rush off to bed early as they aren’t expecting Father Christmas to bring their presents: they’ve a long wait yet, as traditionally it’s the Three Kings who bring gifts, and they won’t come till Twelfth Night.
So Christmas Day is fairly low key, and there’s no Boxing Day holiday. Nor do the sales start yet, as the shops are no doubt still hoping to sell lots of goods at full price.
New Year’s Eve is a big celebration, too, but many parties don’t actually start until after midnight: the family have a special meal, then eat their good luck grapes – one with each chime of the clock in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol – and then people head off to socialise.
And, finally, on January 5th, the Kings’ Parade takes place – the Cabalgata – complete with local personalities as the Kings (usually someone blacks up to play the part of Baltazar). So January 6th is the day the children get their presents – at least it’s gifts if they’ve been good, and coal if they haven’t. The bakers sell a type of candy made to look like coal, but given how cold it’s been recently where I am, I wouldn’t have minded if I’d had the real thing – it’d have helped eke out the log pile a while longer.
This year, because the 6th fell on a Sunday, many of the local authorities decided to make the 7th a compensatory bank holiday, although it isn’t officially a national holiday.
This means that we’ve now been “being festive” for over a month; I don’t know how people have the stamina. Personally I think it’s time to get back to work and get 2008 up and running, and that’s exactly what I intend to do… mañana.