It feels weird to talk about Christmas in the middle of January, but I feel like last Christmas is one I’d like to have a record of on the blog. Not that Christmas in Madrid was hugely different from Christmas in Ireland, but it was fantastic all the same.
There was still the Christmas concert in schools across the country. In my case, our school had a Christmas carol concert, where they sang a mixture of songs in English and Spanish. My third grade’s song, Mi Burrito Sabanero (My little Savannah Donkey) has been stuck in my head for some time now, and even today at school, kids were singing it. The school also recorded a video of all the different classes and all the teachers singing a Christmas song, which was very cute. You can find me in the video with one of my second-grade classes and of course with the teachers! Thankfully, my school is fantastic and has a great blog, so if you’re interested you can watch the children’s concert and our fun video!
Concert carols: http://ceippenalta.blogspot.com/2019/01/penalta-en-navidad.html
And of course, we had a Staff Christmas Party! However, I have to say, the Spanish do it better. After the concert, we headed to the restaurant all the teachers go to for lunch on Fridays and had a feast! No one was lacking food or drink, and it was lovely to get to know some more of the other staff. After three hours of eating, it was decided we needed an activity, so the principal headed back to the school to get a projector and started some karaoke! Only for the fact that the restaurant kicked us out 4 hours later, we probably would still be singing.
Yet, there are some things that are different when you celebrate Christmas in Spain. The first is the wonderful Christmas markets in the capital. Though Dublin has started to try and have Christmas markets in the past few years, they really aren’t the same. I went to the ones in Plaza Mayor, the main square, on a few occasions, and each time something new made me smile. It really was a fantastic atmosphere, though it lacked something like mulled wine to walk around with.
Perhaps one of my favourite Christmas thing in Madrid was the Naviluz Bus. The idea of the bus was to travel through the city centre and see all the Christmas lights. It was such a cool way to both see the lights and the city, as it was the only time I’ve been on a double-decker bus in Madrid. It was cheap enough, at €4 a ticket, but the tickets sold out before the start of December, so its key to buy them quickly. It was also freezing on top of the bus, and though we were wrapped up warm, we needed more layers. I would definitely recommend doing it with kids, who seemed to be the target market, but even for us 20-odd-year-olds, it was a fun experience.
Another Christmas tradition is El Gordo, the Christmas lottery. Drawn every year on the 22nd December, it’s the biggest lottery of the year and pretty much everyone participates in it. It’s not cheap, however, at about €20 a ticket, but seeing as I’ve never bought a lottery ticket before (and don’t plan on buying many more), I decided it would be fun to join in. Unfortunately, as you would have known by now, I didn’t win anything. At least it’s a fun memento!
Christmas Day, though I didn’t celebrate it in Spain, is also a different affair. Christmas dinner is on Christmas Day and is traditionally lamb or fish or both. Like Ireland and a lot of the world, it’s a big family day, with people travelling home to see their loved ones.
The biggest difference is that Christmas does not end with Christmas Day (or St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland). Instead, it continues on until the 6th of January. This is due to the 3 Kings, the givers of gifts who bring the end of the season. Unlike us, it is not Santa who brings the presents, in fact, in some houses in Spain, Santa Claus is nearly a bad word. Instead, the 3 Wise Men bring the children their Christmas wishes. Spanish Children write letters to the Kings and give them to the kings’ pages in school. In my school, they even get to ask for a present for the class, which they got on their first morning back. It was really interesting to see the kids write their letters and talk about their favourite kings (most of them chose Baltazar).
I also went to see the parade, or Cabalgata, of the Kings in Madrid on the night of the 5th of January, which for Spanish Children is their “Christmas Eve”. It was amazing to see the procession of the kings, but even more amazing to see the other floats. The parade started with the local firemen, and I was kind of confused to see the crowds go wild for them until the pelting started. From that moment on we were attacked by sweets thrown by each float, and the scramble for the fallen candies on the ground was fierce. Nearly every family had a bag to collect the goods together, but it wasn’t only the children who were searching for the sweets, adults were just as aggressively collective. It didn’t take me and Cathy long to join in, though we left most of the sweets for the children around us.
Though I wasn’t in Madrid for Christmas Day, I feel like I got to have a great experience of Christmas in Spain, as well as getting to go home to spend my time off with my family. Most of my time in Ireland was spent relaxing at home, but I got to catch up with all my friends and even got to do a little sightseeing as well! More about that another time.