martes, 11 de diciembre de 2012

Spanish Christmas Customs… “told in a humorous way!”

Merry Christmas to all of us!

            I’m going to talk about Christmas gift-giving in Spain. Well, a gift is always considered as a gesture of love and affection.  A lot of good things can be said about this beautiful custom, so that we can stay here until the next Christmas day and still, we won’t be able to finish talking about it.

            First and foremost, I must say that we, Spaniards are very religious; we, being a staunch defender of Catholicism since time in memorial. Our zeal to cultivate the spirit makes us a bit careless with money, a thing that gives us discomfort in the pocket.  For this, driven by our zealous desire to improve ourselves spiritually in this season of love, we plunge into spending spree without any control.  We fill our respective houses and those of our relatives and friends with silly things, and at the same time, empty our pockets with that horrible metal, which in reality, is the only thing that matters to us.

            However, it really feels good to give and receive gifts!  Actually, we feel very glad to receive them, although we tend to deny it.  Indeed, we are very thankful for whatever gift that other people give us.  When someone gives us a Christmas gift, we cannot help but exclaim:

            “Please, you don’t have to bother giving me something.  You’re such a good friend.  You always have something for me”, but silently we tell ourselves: “What the hell has he brought me this time?” as though saying that if it’s another handkerchief, I will throw it to his face.

            The custom of opening the gift as soon as it’s handed to us is one interesting aspect of gift-giving among us, Spaniards.  It is not for impatience, of course not, but it is our way of showing our appreciation of the kindness of the person giving the gift, as though telling him “how good and wonderful friend you have been to me.” And so, we open the gift at once and exclaim:

            “What a precious gift!  I have never seen anything like this before!  It’s really beautiful and indeed, it’s of good quality.  Thank you very much.  There are no words that can describe my appreciation for your taking time to know what my likes are.  I am so proud to have you as a friend!”  But, at the same we tell ourselves:  “I knew it from the very beginning.  It’s another damned handkerchief.  How cheap and disgusting!  Oh my God, what a taste he has!”  

            On the other hand, it’s nice to see the good intention of relatives and friends behind those gifts.  In Spain, one common gift that we receive is a book about “Learning English in 10 Days”.  Let us see what these two good friends will think and say to strengthen their friendship through gift-giving:

            Manolo says: “Take this Ramon.  It’s my way of showing how important you are to me as a friend. On days such as this, I think of you very much and I won’t let them pass without you knowing how much I care for you.”  But, the truth is that he’s thinking:  “Open, open it now.  Stop saying those words of appreciation because I can’t wait to see and laugh at your funny face when you open the gift”.

            Tearfully, Ramon could say nothing except: “Wow, a gift!  But, Manolo, we are friends and so, you don’t have to bother giving me anything.  It’s enough that you pay a visit and I’m already very much contented with that!”  However, at the back of his mind: “Dammit!  What could it be?  I don’t like the smile he has on his face.  Let us see.  I hope it’s not another book about “Learning How to Make Love in 5 Days” similar to last year”.  And so, Manolo opened the gift and said: “Learning English in 10 Days”!  But Manolo, this is so expensive.  Why did you bother?  This is a wonderful gift and I’m so happy!  There’s no doubt you know me very well and you are my best friend, indeed because you always give me something that I really like!  Thank you very much!  It’s very kind of you”.  At the same time, he was thinking:  “You, rogue!  You know that I’ve been studying English for ten years and you will give me a gift about learning it in 10 days!  You will see what it would be when I give you mine!”

            Another beautiful custom in Spain is to go out with friends on Christmas day to eat and drink like beasts.  Naturally, we agree to meet on a certain time, and the first one to arrive will make it to the place one hour late.  You might be thinking that I’m referring to Slovak friends.  No, don’t be mistaken.  I’m referring to Spanish friends. Indeed, when I meet with my Slovak friends, I feel like meeting with my Spanish friends, waiting, waiting and waiting until they show up, only in the end to receive a text message saying that they will not be able to make it. Well, when everyone has finally arrived, we proceed to eat, tell stories, laugh and drink until all of us get tipsy, always happy about the thought that we are remembering the birth of Jesus Christ.  Of course, we do it in the spirit of generosity, which is so typical of us.  When it is time to pay the bill, a real fight will break out as to who will pay it, as everyone  insists that he is the first one to have invited each one to come to the celebration.  But, when someone has finally paid the bill, one can feel or even hear clearly a great sigh of relief of those who did not.

            There are other typical customs in Spain during Christmas season.  The young kids during these days would form groups and go from house to house to sing Christmas carols and ask for “aguinaldos”, money or candy in return for their “service”.  I remember when I was young, as though it were just yesterday, I would join my friends to sing Christmas carols and ask for gifts from our neighbors. I have never seen much horrified faces in my life before as they open the door!  They would have different reactions upon seeing our young group singing “villancicos” and playing the tambourines.  There was one who got very irritated and bore with us with a fake smile on his face, and later, sent us away with a measly peseta (equivalent to one Slovak crown at that time).  There was one who shut the door under our nose as if he had seen a demon. There was one who covered his ears while we were singing.  Finally, there was one who was scared to death, fainted and fell to the ground.  In spite of everything, we really enjoyed the experience.

            Here are two samples of those enchanting songs, which make me remember those fond memories of the “not so long ago” period of my childhood.  By the way, you have to pay me 5 € for a copy of them! :o)
Alegría, Alegría

Sopa le dieron al Niño,
no se la quiso comer,
y como estaba tan dulce,
se la comió San José.

Vamos al Portal,
con su resplandor,
que salga la luna llena,
y el hermoso sol,
ella nos alumbrará,
con su resplandor.

 Alegría, alegría, alegría,
alegría, alegría y placer,
esta noche nace el Niño,
en el Portal de Belén.

Arre burro, arre

En la puerta de mi casa
voy a poner un petardo,
"pa" reírme del que venga,
a pedir el aguinaldo.

Pues si voy a dar a todo,
el que pide en noche buena,
yo si que voy a tener,
que pedir de puerta en puerta.

Arre borriquito, arre burro arre,
anda más deprisa que llegamos tarde.
Arre borriquito vamos a Belén,
que mañana es fiesta
y al otro también.

How is it in your country?

César de Miguel Santos
inlingua Nitra
Nitra, December 12th 2012.


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