Christmas is once again on top of us. This special family weekend is celebrated virtually all over the civilized world. But has it just become a commercial spectacular? Families spend millions on presents for their children and buy food and wine far above the expected rate of consumption achieved in a normal working week. Do we tell our children the significance of this religious holiday or do most of us in this day and age believe that the story was mythical and perhaps the cast of characters the same. So maybe we should practice the coming together of our families and friends to celebrate the fact that we can. That ‘do unto others’ style of ‘religious practice’ should be more evident at this time of the year – everywhere.
But don’t let’s dwell on the whys and wherefores, lets concentrate on what we eat and drink and how we celebrate.
Our hosts, the wonderful Spanish and their love of life, family and friends celebrate their Christmas, like most Northern Europeans, on the 24th of December — Christmas Eve/Noche Buena. This is a time when families from different parts of the country or indeed further afield, try to make it back home to join with all other members. The table will be laden with shell fish of all types, food will probably be Leg of Lamb or Suckling Pig (Pierna de Cordero Asado o Cochinillo Asado) slow roasted in the oven, served with salads maybe potatoes and perhaps an oven baked Dorada or Pargo. Some will go as far as having a Turkey stuffed with Truffles (Pavo Trufado de Navidad) mainly for the wealthy and elite of the past. Loads of Dulces y Turónes will be consumed as will plenty of good wines and maybe a liqueur or coñac to wash it all down. In days past (I’m not sure whether it is still common practice) but families would then hit the streets with music and dancing. The saying was ‘Esta noche es una Noche Buena. Y no es noche de dormir.’ Tonight is the good night and not for sleeping!! In this part of the world the celebration of Merry Christmas is known as Feliz Navidad. In Catalan it is Bon Nadal and in Galicia it’s Bo Nadal.
New Year’s Eve is much the same as all over the world. The Spanish tend to start later with celebrations but then go out on the town until the early hours: Special dinners in restaurants or again at home with families, after which they congregate in village/town squares to listen to music and awaiting the chimes of midnight and the 12 lucky grapes.
The British, celebrate in a slightly different manner. Christmas is a time when the family try and get together. People living here with children and grandchildren in the UK, often make the trip back as it’s more convenient than all the family travelling to Spain. Christmas Eve is a normally quiet affair spent at home, but Christmas Day is the time when the families have lunch around the table at home or go out to a restaurant to celebrate. Although Goose was the most popular Christmas meat in the early years, nowadays the mainstay of the table in either home or restaurant is usually the
same: Soup, Smoked Salmon and Shellfish, followed by Roast Turkey or Roast Beef. The turkey will be filled with Chestnut Stuffing and served with sausage wrapped in bacon, a sauce made of seasoned creamed bread (sounds strange but tastes great!!) and Cranberry Sauce: Lots of fresh vegetables (especially Brussel Sprouts which people either love or hate!) and crisp roasted potatoes. The dessert would be a Christmas Pudding – a steamed pudding made with mixed dried fruits and nuts all soaked in brandy, rum or port. This is normally served with a brandy cream or brandy butter or thick fresh cream. The meal is normally wrapped up with mince pies (again a mixed, soaked, spiced fruit in pastry). Wine is consumed in vast quantities these days as the Brits ‘discovered’ it over the last 50 years or so, however they were always the leaders in the consumption of Sherry as a pre lunch drink and Port as the after lunch digestif. Indeed many of the Sherry houses in Jerez and the Port houses in Oporto were British. Because of the work entailed at this time a lot of people are opting to go to restaurants, which means that most restaurants catering for the British expats will be full on the 25th of December.
New Years Eve is another time that the Brits like to celebrate. Normally by going out to restaurants that offer fine food and wines, live music and dancing and a great party atmosphere and indeed most establishments will be full long before the evening. So if you want an evening like that you best get going now to make your reservations!!
But remember this year, think of your neighbours or friends that maybe on their own. Call in to make sure they are alright, have a drink with them and spread good will amongst all men, women and children.
May I wish all the readers health and happiness in 2019.
Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year