This Christmas was my fourth Christmas in Spain!
The first spanish Christmas I experienced was in Valladolid. It was spent with my host family from when I first (at least the first time since high school, but that’s a whole other story) arrived in Spain. The second, third and now the fourth, have been in Ourense, with my partner Carlos’ family. All of these experiences have been so different from those had in New Zealand, that I still don’t entirely know what to make of them. If you want to read a quick post about Christmas in New Zealand, have look here! I’ll let you in on some of my experiences in Spain on Christmas and some of my
thoughts on the matter…
Valladolid, with the family from Nigrán
Over three whole years ago now, I finished University and traveled pretty much directly to Spain. This was around the beginning of December 2014. I was going to live with a host family for three months. The idea was to teach the children in the family English, while I explored a new country and culture. And renewed and bettered my Spanish of course. Since I arrived just before Christmas, I had the pleasure of spending that time with the first Spanish family I came to know. The family consisted of two beautiful children and a fantastically down to earth mother. For Christmas, they took me to their family house, way out in the middle of nowhere! Well, in the middle of a vast open landscape in Valladolid.
The house was lovely, warm and cosy. The inside was spacious and full of toasty coloured tiles. We made churros and spanish hot chocolate in between the delicious steaming meals. Outside was a semi abandoned, tiny village. There were very few inhabited houses. Looking past the neighbouring chimneys, I could only see… Empty expanses of land, covered in frost and dead grass! The contrast between the cosy spanish Christmas being celebrated on the inside, and the barren winter passing by on the outside will always come to mind when I think of Christmas in Spain.
So what did we do there?
We.. ate. And talked. The children opened their presents on the 24th! In New Zealand, Santa comes on Christmas Eve, leaving the presents under the tree for everyone to wake up to on Christmas morning. For me, this was the second strange thing about a spanish Christmas. On the topic, another odd thing I found about Christmas in Spain was the way to give presents to children. In New Zealand, Santa usually gives each child one present, or a small sack or pillow case full of small gifts. These could include sweets and other foods, toys, games or clothes. The child would also generally receive a present from their parents, one from each sibling, each close friend and various family members. However, in Spain, children get all their presents from Santa! Each present, if it has a note, reads “To Child. From Santa.”!
The fourth Spanish Christmas: In Ourense!
Each of the last three years leading up to the latest spanish Christmas have been fairly similar. This year is, without doubt, my favourite! Christmas 2017! This year, on top of all the usual Christmas celebrations, I am making something very special for my spanish family… But first, let’s discuss the normal practices for this particular spanish family.
First of all, I have to point out that my Carlos isn’t completely Spanish. He was actually born in Germany! His parents left Spain when they were very young. While in Germany they had Carlos, and proceeded to raise him in a small town south of Hannover. When Carlos was four years old, he and his parents moved back to their home town in Ourense. Because of this important period in their lives, this family celebrates Christmas a little differently from the rest of Spain. They import special products from Germany. One in particular, is the star of the season: Stollen! Each Christmas, Carlos and his parents much their way through at least whole loaves of stollen. Stollen is a sweet, fruity bread which often contains marzipan and nuts. It is coated with a sugary shell which is far too sweet for my tastes!
Apart from the Stollen, they also make some traditional German decorations. Likewise, they purchase various kinds of sweets and other foods which are more common further north than in Spain. On Christmas Eve every year, we open presents. This is done far more casually than I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. What’s more, it is always followed by a very spanish “Does is fit? Do you like it? We can take it back and change it if you like, are you sure you like it? Are you completely sure?” which drives me crazy! But of course I appreciate it. Carlos, of course, is more used to this than I am, and it doesn’t faze him one bit.
Don’t miss this!
Now back to that something special I planned for this Christmas… Carlos’ Family and I made…. a Hangi! Have you ever heard of a Hangi before? It’s a traditional Maori method of cooking used in New Zealand. You’ll just have to read the next blog post to find out more!!!
The link will be here next week.
One more thing! This looks like it’s going to be a seriously cheesy movie, but it’s about New Zealand, so it must be good! If nothing else, it’ll be a great way to see what Christmas is like in my homeland. Here’s a trailer to Kiwi Christmas!
(click here if the video doesn’t work)
Ka kite anō au i a kōrua!