Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thursday Thirteen [ 68 ]: feliz navidad!

( It got longer and longer because I started this TT very early and I got carried away! sorry about that ... Still with an unreliable internet connection so I'd better hurry to publish this! Here we go - fingers crossed)

01. Christmas in Spain wouldn't be Christmas without turron
02. Which is a nougat confection (Arabic in origin), typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, coated in crushed, toasted almonds - same ingredients today as they were centuries ago:
02. and usually shaped into a rectangular tablet or brick.
See more turron here
03. There is a hard turron from Alicante , a tough brick with whole almonds and hazelnuts
04. and a soft one from Jijona , which is not really soft but much softer than the tough turron and therefore easier to eat!
05. There are of course many variations and flavors: Egg Yolk (yema tostada) , Coconut Turron (containing natural coconut), Fruit Turron (with candied fruits together with the rest of the traditional ingredients), Chocolate Turron (which in turn have different variations such as coffee, raisins with rum, whiskey, truffles, oranges, etc)
06. The supermarkets literally build towers with turron bricks! This is a tiny example of a local small supermarket.

You can see an example here
07. The other traditional treats are mantecados and polvorones (Spanish crumble cakes) , made with almonds, sugar and lard. At first in many villages, when people made the pig slaughter, they used the lard ("manteca") to elaborate home-made sweets, which they called “mantecados”. Further on, people thought about drying out those sweets in order to keep them fresh. That is how fines, soft and crunchy “mantecados” started, and from there, their popularity spread out quickly all over Spain.

08. One symbol of Christmas that still maintains much importance throughout Spain is the Nativity scene, which can be found at the local plazas (squares) in cities and small towns throughout the country, and can also be seen in many Spanish homes, and they can be quite elaborate. In many small towns, during the nights just before Christmas, plazas might even have a live Nativity scene, with actors and actresses playing the parts of Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men as well as live animals often associated with the birth of Christ, like lambs, sheep, and donkeys.

Meet el Caganer ("the pooper"), a rather strange figure, which has been a characteristic of Nativity scenes all over Catalonia since the 17th century! No Catalan Nativity scene would be complete without him and he is difficult to spot of course, but usually found behind a suitably placed bush, for example. While originally the Caganer was portrayed as a Catalan peasant wearing a traditional hat called a barretina — a red stocking hat with a black band, nowadays he comes in many shapes and forms, from monks to shepherds, Barcelona or Madrid soccer players to famous film stars and politicians - all performing the exact same action - defecating. That's right! They are actually squatting down, with their trousers round their knees, having a bowel movement!

. The actual Christmas festivities begin the announcement of the winning number of the famous Christmas Lottery in Spain on December 22nd. This lottery, by far the biggest in Spain, is a tradition practiced by a wide portion of the population, hoping to become instantly rich. This tradition is deeply embedded in these holidays, dating back to 1763, when Carlos III initiated it. Since then, not one year has passed without it, and it now is the symbolic moment in which Spaniards begin to celebrate the Christmas holidays

10. December 24 - Christmas Eve in Spain, called “Nochebuena ( the "Good Night"), just like in many parts of the world is celebrated with two very important traditions, eating an enormous meal, and going to Christmas mass. There is a wide variety of typical foods one might find on plates across Spain on this night. Each region has its own distinct specialties, including roast lamb and suckling pig, turkey or duck , and an enormous variety of seafood . For dessert, there is quite a spread of the delicacies mentioned at the beginning of this post.

After the meal, many Spaniards go to midnight mass, known as “La misa del Gallo”, or “Rooster Mass”, named such because the Rooster is known as the first to announce the birth of Christ.

11. On December 28th comes another unique Spanish celebration, the Day of the Innocents, marking King Herod’s massacre of infants in Judea. I find it terrifying just to think about it, but in Spain this day is the equivalent of April Fools Day (innocents=fools??)

12. New Year's Eve: the celebrations that take place on New Year’s Eve, or Nochevieja (the "Old Night"), in Spain are quite an impressive spectacle. In all plazas of Spanish cities - big and small - one can see a similar scene, and it will undoubtedly include church bells and grapes: When the clock strikes 12, the church bells sound 12 times, and at this moment, all Spaniards eat 12 grapes, one for each toll of the bell, which brings luck and prosperity for each month of the new year. Wearing red underwear should also bring you luck, I haven't tried it yet! The festivities mean a lively celebration until the wee hours of the morning.

13. In early January, while most of the world has already begun packing up the Christmas ornaments, throwing out the tree, and finding a place for all of their gifts, Spaniards are continuing the celebration. January 6, Three King’s Day, is the long awaited day in which the three Kings bring their gifts. On January 5, children go to a parade where they see the three kings arrive to their city, and take the last opportunity to ask them for gifts.They will wake up the next morning to find gifts left by the Three Wise Men. But because children go back to school right after January 6, there is a tendency of giving some of the presents for Christmas as well, so that they can enjoy the toys during the holidays.

For breakfast or after lunch, families often have the typical dessert of the day, the “Roscón de los Reyes”, a large ring shaped cake that is decorated with candied fruits, symbolic of the emeralds and rubies that adorned the robes of the three kings. Somewhere inside the cake there is a surprise, and the person to find it will be crowned King or Queen of the house for the remainder of the day. Source

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  1. Thank you so much for this post; it was absolutely the Catalan nativity squatter (which I have never heard of) and the feast of the holy innocents (which I think at some point I had).

    13 Extraordinary Winter scenes

  2. I just was wondering that you are already up when your comment arrived. It is very interesting that Spanish and Italian traditions are so similar. Mr. Gattino also got his gifts on Jan 6 but it was "la bephana" (a witch) who brought them. In Italy too the creches are far more important then a tree.
    Thanks for the YouTube link ! it' is soo funny and soo true ! He got it years ago when it just came out. I had forgotten about it.

  3. That's some amazing info!!! I love hearing about other traditions! Wonderful TT!!

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Hmmm, I normally don't take down my decorations until the end of January... I remember one year, when I had to, finally take them down to put the easter decorations up. That year easter was particularly early and the tree just would not lose its needles...
    Merry Christmas

  5. How wonderfully put here mar!! I was truly educated on a lot here. I'd never heard of so much....I learned, that's good!!!

    Haga los comentarios en español bastante simples entonces usted no será sellado. rofl

    [hoping that's close enough to make any meaning]

  6. This is fascinating! I love hearing about traditions in other countries. Thanks!

  7. I love this post. THIS is something that I feel "missing" by being an American. I could never write a post like this. We have no completely AMERICAN traditions. All of our festivities and traditions originate elsewhere. That IS what makes our great Melting Pot ... but I do sometimes WISH for something that made us unique and original and "old"... LOL! Thank you sO much for sharing Spain's traditions Mar!

  8. Wonderful list. One of these days I will make it to Spain and we will do an eating tour together! LOL!

  9. Wow, what great traditions and delicious dishes. I mailed off cookies to my boys that they are on their own they look forward to some homemade "Christmas" in a box. Merry Christmas my friend.

  10. The first dessert made me wonder if it was the one that caused The Snow Queen gave to Edmond to make him her slave. I've had Marzapan in Germany.

    The Nativity pooper is stranger than fiction. I guess it means the Spanish have a sense of humor and like to give transcendence a little down to earth reminder.

  11. Thank you for the beautiful glimpse into a world of tradition I had never seen. Amazing how these things evolve, isn't it?

    (No need to apologize for going long...the more the merrier!)

    Dropped by from Michele's on this gray Thursday.

  12. Is number eight for real? Once my in-laws gave my very young son a penny bank that was a hobo mooning you and the coin slot was his butt crack. That bank found it's way to our trash can very quickly!

  13. Thank you for a fascinating TT. I wonder what the history behind the pooper is...

  14. What a great collection of info I didnt know. My son spent some time in Spain this year while in the military:) Happy TT and thanks for stopping by.

  15. Wow I love all this info on Spains traditions around Christmas and the New Year. And how whacky is the squatter?! Thank you I enjoyed your TT...

  16. Mar, that is FASCINATING stuff; I'd never known any of that. Thanks for teaching me more about Spanish traditions!

    Happy TT and Merry Christmas!

  17. Even though Im back from vacation and feeling blah, I took some time to post for my friends on my wordpress blog!

    ! Come take a look, and visit my cruise pictures! myspace/maydakmom

  18. How fun. What a great post for this Thursday Thirteen. Have a wonderful TT and a very Merry Christmas. :)

  19. Neat since my son will live there some day #8 is just ......naughty

  20. The pooper cracked me up...but I am going to HAVE to try some turron!

  21. I must ask you, the Turron, is the stuffing a kind of the same as in Empandillios?

  22. Hi Mar! I love your photos and information.

    Guess we really have Spain's heritage in our Philippine culture, judging by the things you wrote. We have those food plus the traditions. We also have turon (how its spelled in the vernacular), polvorones, Noche Buena (for Christmas) Media Noche (for New year), Misa de gallo, Ninos Inocentes and three Kings. My family's favorite Christmas food: Arroz a la Valenciana.

    Why, there are still some Spanish-speaking families here in the country. I for one, had 4 semesters of Spanish subjects in college.

    Feliz Navidad!


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