Archive | December, 2016

Merry Christmas 

24 Dec

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone who manages to find their way to this blog a Very Merry Christmas and to thank you for all your kind comments and good wishes. Thank you all so much for reading. 


Oh Little Town 

24 Dec

The indoor market in the old town of Jàvea is always well worth a visit. Built on the site of the former nun’s convent it justifiably takes its place close to the fortified church. Selling probably the best produce locally, it also houses what seem to me to be the most authentic tapas bars we’ve seen in the Costa Blanca area.
At this time of year, however, it also displays a delightful Bethlehem nativity scene. Telling the essential Christmas story, it also manages to reflect the life of both the biblical town and it’s own. The star lights up the windmills on the hill, recognisably similar to the ones that look down on the modern Jàvea, while the figures are individuals, full of character, and suggest people we all know.

Some figures are animated: a woman sits sewing, her needle rising up and down; the sails of the windmills turn and the water flows as a woman washes her hair in the fountain – surely a memory from the time before indoor plumbing.

But it is the market setting and the extraordinary detail of the model’s stalls that brings the world of the Nativity to present day Spain.

Christmas Humbug? 

18 Dec

You may have gathered from the previous post that we don’t go overboard on Christmas. In fact, we’ve almost checked out on it completely. When I read a newspaper article this morning ( ) it all came flooding back to me exactly why. Entitled “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is not to have to buy presents” the author succinctly describes the ludicrous, to me at any rate, forced buying of gifts that no-one really wants.

Come on, admit it, most of what you buy is junk. It will be drastically reduced in price come Boxing Day if not sooner and the only people who will buy it are those poor “organised” souls getting in early for the following Christmas. Of course, you may well have bought useful presents: food or drink of some sort, clothes, tools or kitchen gadgets and so on. This, of course, assumes the recipient hasn’t already bought the same item for themselves. Ergo they either didn’t like it enough to buy it for themselves or they couldn’t afford it which is a whole other argument on pity, embarrassment, forced reciprocation and escalation.

When it comes to buying for your partner you are truly blessed if your other half knows you so well that they effortlessly choose something you love and wanted year after year. Most women I know either hint or explicitly tell hubby what to buy them. A couple go shopping with him to make sure he gets exactly the right thing. I’m sure lots of men do the same thing. I get it. You’ve had too many years having to gush about a gift you either think was a waste of money, dread having to wear in public or is so practical as to not feel like a gift at all. I know, #FirstWorldProblems.

I wasn’t always this cynical. I bought Christmas cards as soon as they came into the shops, probably around September. I had a Word document with all the names and addresses of those to whom they would be sent along with the name of every offspring and if they had sent one to us the previous year. This was necessary as most were not family and friends I was in regular contact with but rather people I hadn’t spoken with in years. Oh, and don’t forget the little letter that had to accompany most of these, listing holidays, achievements and anything else that said how wonderful one’s life was.

Christmas was an event to be planned for. Endless lists and shopping and disappointment. I so wanted everything to be perfect and to give my son wonderful happy-family memories all whilst trying to instill the “real” meaning of Christmas. These aims were not necessarily compatible. Then, at a particularly difficult time, I stopped coping. I bought everybody scarves – the gift that says you really couldn’t be bothered. It had to stop. The following year I didn’t buy gifts for adult family and just gave money to the now teenage nieces and nephews.

Fortunately, Neil feels the same way. We don’t buy each other gifts. Our itinerate life style means we rarely spend Christmas at home any more. Nobody can send us cards as we don’t have a letterbox. Emails and Facebook serve to send our Christmas greetings worldwide. Celebration is largely based around eating and drinking too much although I make it a rule that I’m not spending all day cooking! It suits us.

What we really look forward to is Alex and his girlfriend joining us in January. He works in retail so he doesn’t get much time off at Christmas. Perhaps if everyone else did the same as us he’d have more. Then again, maybe he’d be out of a job. So keep spending folks.

The Start of Christmas 

14 Dec

They do Christmas differently in Spain. It’s one of the reasons we love being here at this time of year. In total contrast to the frantic consumerism of the UK that starts sometime in October, you would barely notice the holiday approaching.

The supermarkets are probably the first with the appearance of more luxury items and displays of túrron and other traditional popular sweets. But it’s not until December that Christmas trees and other decorations are put up in bars and restaurants or the wonderful nativity scenes appear in public places. Poinsettias are for sale everywhere and the numerous Oriental bazaars stock their shelves with cheap and cheerful decorations.

It’s the Fiesta of Santa Llúcia on December 13th, however, that is thought of as the onset of the festive season. Here in Jàvea the fiesta is a low key event but has a small dedicated following. Starting the previous evening with a parade around the old town distributing doughnuts and Mistela (a fortified wine made from grape juice, brandy, sugar, cloves, and ground coffee beans) the day itself kicks off with “wake up” fireworks. Pilgrims make their way up to a chapel dedicated to the saint on a nearby hill and, after a special mass, the images of Santa Llúcia and Santa Barbara are then carried in a short procession around the hill.

The name Llúcia is reminiscent of the latin word for ‘light’ – luck and the early Christian Church originally placed the saint’s day so it coincided with the Winter Solstice, the start of the lengthening of the days. It became symbolic for the struggle between light and dark, good and evil. This is why traditionally it is seen by Christians as the onset of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the “bringer of light”.

For us heathens the party season also started yesterday with turkey and all the trimmings. It was the Wine Appreciation Group’s Christmas Lunch. I’m even in the mood to put a few decorations up. Well, a small tree. A very small tree. More of a table decoration, really.