The Christmas season is here, with all the gooey trimmings. I thought I'd write a piece to anticipate the freebie versions for later this week...
The freebies, as you may see, are fond of the word 'festive' which will creep into any article about Christmas, as will numerous references to 'El Gordo' (that's the name - by the way - of the first prize, not the name of the Christmas lottery drawn on 22nd December). There will be an article about the revolting cagoners - small nativity figures from Catalonia, increasingly models of easy-to-recognise public persons (particularly politicians) - portrayed taking a poop.
Christmas used to be the Three Kings (wait, there'll be an opportunity next week to write about them). Los Reyes Magos, of course, brought presents for January 6th: twelfth night, usually the day before school begins. There will be a public show, camels and three fellows dressed as the reyes (one in black-paint), on the evening of the 5th.
Now, commercialism, the Corte Inglés and Spain's millions of children have gleefully adopted Santa Claus (Papá Noel) as their own. More presents. I'll have the Play Station, thanks Dad. Spanish fathers, by the way, don't dress up as Santa. But, it'll come...
Later on in January, some earnest Spanish left wing groups will try and collect toys considered bellicose - plastic guns and catapults, to make a great point of destroying them publicly to make some really stupid point or other. They will receive massive coverage in the local Spanish dailies.
A nice point over the festive season (there, I said it) is to leave cakes and a bottle of booze, plastic cups at the ready, in the banks (useful before you ask to see your balance) and, until recently, in the petrol stations. Pity that's gone the way of all flesh...
The Christmas lights will be tastefully ignored by most foreign diarists (the garish illumination will remain until someone finally takes them down, hopefully before February), and the ghastly high piping children's voices amplified out of all decency while belting out interminable villancicos (Christmas songs) until long into the New Year will be brushed over.
The Christmas Eve mass (the past midnight Misa de Gallo) may earn a mention and economists (if not newspaper owners) will want to point out that workers get their Christmas bonus, an extra month's wages, at this time. The families won't be eating turkey - rather gambas and ham or cordero followed by those dry and inedible polverones (they collapse into a powdery lump in your mouth) and plenty of wine.
Don't forget the Spanish day of trickery falls on December 28th, it's called the Day of the Innocents.
On New Year's Eve, probably gathered in an expensive restaurant with live music, open bar and paper hats (called un cotillón), you are meant to eat twelve grapes for good luck (I hate grapes) during the twelve campanadas - carillons at midnight, and then dance until dawn.
But the big news for Christmas this year isn't Santa, or the elves, or the marzipan or the bottle of cheap champers (cava) made by the Catalonians; the big news is the elections. On December 20th. This Sunday. There will be change.