BIO: Although born in Kent and largely brought up in London, Anna is a bit of a wild Celt being of Irish, Scottish and Welsh extraction. Anna studied English Literature and Classics at Leeds University and has worked as senior press officer for Help the Aged, International PR spokesman and invigilator for the Guinnes book of World Records, some years later establishing her own PR and marketing consultancy with international clients in luxury travel, retail, hotels and spas.
For the past eight years she has contributed a weekly column to the Majorca Daily Bulletin and writes twice weekly for The Daily Telegraph’s Expat section. Anna lives in Mallorca with her husband, Alan, and son, Oliver.
A list of Anna’s published books can be viewed here. Today, she shares with us how Christmas is celebrated in Spain.
Many things set Spain apart from the UK but none more so than at Christmas.
In the long and yawn-worthy build up to the festive season in Britain, it’s business as usual for the Spanish who seem oblivious to the impending celebrations. By contrast the English are busy buying up tree decorations and gifts and stockpiling well ahead of the festivities. In Spain, even street decorations and illuminations are low-key until mid December and there’s not a whiff of a plastic Santa or a reindeer in sight.
In Mallorca the only Christmas talk is about food and family and the concept of receiving plentiful gifts is treated with a degree of disapproval, especially in the rural areas. Although Santa Claus has gradually shouldered his way onto the festive scene in Spain it is really only on 5th January that children grow genuinely excited. On this special night the three Magi-Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar- arrive in villages and towns across Spaindelivering good cheer and gifts to children. In small villages such as Fornalutx near my home in the rural northwest of Mallorca, the kings arrive on donkeys and wear exaggerated and glitzy tongue-in-cheek costumes and are heavily disguised with wigs and beards so that their identity cannot be revealed. Village men volunteer for the role each year and the children they greet on the night of the big event haven’t a clue who they are-even though they might in fact be a close neighbour or relative! In larger towns, donkeys are switched for steeds, golden carriages, boats and floats but the sentiment remains the same.
In Palma, the Capital of Majorca, the Three Kings cavalcade is spectacular.
Usually my husband Alan, son Ollie and I, attend our local village event because for years Ollie was a recipient of the villagers largesse, lining up to meet the kings and receiving a gift annually. Now that he’s a teenager the novelty has slightly worn off. So this year we ventured to Palmaand were not disappointed.
Float upon magnificent float crossed our vision, fireworks emblazoned the sky, cannons blasted and the crowds whooped and cheered. Brightly lit street stalls sold churros, sugary doughnut strips and roscones, the delicious sweetbread shaped like a large doughnut which is often filled with chocolate or custard. Each roscón contains a tiny plastic figurine and the lucky finder is assured luck for the next year.
Mallorca is famous for its gegants, large models of traditional Mallorcan peasants, that are paraded along the streets at festivals.
Many were in evidence at the event as well as stilt walkers, fire eaters and dancing elves and fantastical creatures who showered the crowds with sweets. The three kings sat aloft individual thrones that were wheeled ahead of the floats, waving to the crowds and throwing gifts onto the packed pavements along the route to the town hall. Behind them musicians, dancing firemen, Barbie costumed girls, giant teddies, angels, wizards and lions and all manner of creature, danced and waved while music filled the air.
The 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany, is a time when children can finally enjoy their gifts left for them at home by the three kind kings the night before.
The following day sadly marks the official end of Christmas for the Spanish and a return perhaps to economic drudgery. Still, judging by the masses that poured into Palma for this most heartwarming of events, none of the Spanish appear to have lost their love of life. Long may that continue!
Header picture source: www.anna-nicholas.com