No matter where I am, Spain, Italy, or Portugal, I cannot escape the ever-so-great Christmas spirit. With bright, grandiose decorations covering all of the main streets,… No matter where I am, Spain, Italy, or Portugal, I cannot escape the ever-so-great Christmas spirit. With bright, grandiose decorations covering all of the main streets, government laborers wrapping beautiful christmas lights around the most massive trees in sight, and vendors selling poinsettas, I can not help but to be captured in all of the excitement. Thoughts such as Christmas shopping, Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and Christmas dinner back home crowd my mind. I am constantly thinking of gifts to give; I have been so greatly blessed, I would feel selfish if I were to receive anything more- I am in Spain after all!
One thought that crossed my mind (with the assistance of my mother’s curiosity, of course) was, "I wonder how Christmas is celebrated here?" Anxious to know, I walked over to the AIFS (study abroad program) office and asked Inma, a native and an employee. Her name is short for María de la Inmaculada, as in Mary of the inmaculate conception. Many of the "Marías" here have names like this, i.e. María del Mar (of the sea), del Pilar, etc. From what I have been told, this is because the virgin Mary is so important and adored so much in the catholic religion, the other Marías (del mar, del Pilar, etc.) are like replicas of her (remember, that is only what one source has told me and I may be incorrect).
At any rate, Inma gave me a brief overview on how Christmas is celebrated herein Spain. The first day of the Navidad, is december 24th, "La Noche Buena", (translated as, "The Good Night") when there is an extended family dinner. On december 25th, "Día De La Navidad", the immediate family congregates for a nice christmas lunch. On december 31st, "Noche Vieja" (or "Old Night"), the extended family assembles for a big family dinner. Then, at midnight the bells ring 12 times and it is said that if you eat one grape for each bell, you will have good luck all year – mind you, the bells are rung very fast. Following the bells is the "Joven Fiesta" when all the young people go out to party for the remainder of the night. The last day of the Navidad is january 6th, "Día Del Reyes" ("Day of the Three Kings/Wise Men", when the children recieve the presents that were placed under the christmas tree the night before.
Christmas is celebrated just a tad bit differently here, and different is good, but I prefer to receive my presents 12 days earlier. Merry Christmas to all, and remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. Be a blessing to someone!