In Spain Christmas is a slow burning celebration that warms up around Christmas Eve and continues to gather momentum through the festivities surrounding New Year until the arrival of Los Tres Reyes Magos, the Three Kings on the evening of 5, January.
New Year’s Eve in Majorca is a decidedly community orientated event with locals gathering in town and village squares island-wide to raise a farewell toast to the previous twelve months. It is of course traditional in Spain to gobble a grape with every chime of the clock as it strikes midnight but this activity can be greatly impeded if one has been unable to purchase seedless grapes. I am yet to manage eating twelve fat green grapes with pips within the allotted time and I am not alone. This is unfortunate because folklore has it that every grape consumed represents one month of good luck. On that basis I’m in for a mixed year.
Cynics would point to the fact that this charming annual tradition is nothing more than a marketing ploy dreamt up more than one hundred years ago by shrewd wine producers in Alicante in the Valencia region. After a bumper harvest, the farmers purportedly hit on the idea of gulling people into buying grapes to see in the New Year.
Of course some gluttons for punishment attempt to down their grapes twice. That’s because in Madrid’s main square of Puerta del Sol a rehearsal is carried out the day before the 31, December ensuring a smooth running event the following night. This year thousands of party-goers gathered outside the majestic 18th century Real Casa de Correos, home of the regional government for the practice run. Some returned on New Year’s Eve for a Groundhog Day experience while others had had enough of the freezing temperatures and watched events on televisions at home.
During the lull of the next few days Spaniards everywhere will gather their strength in preparation for the next festive assault – the arrival of the Three Kings. This is the spectacular end to the Christmas season the day before Epiphany when gluttony and excess comes to an end and all of us attempt to resume a sense of normality once more.
I’m not sure what normality really signifies but I have a horrible feeling that it will represent austerity in all its forms, including an end to wonderfully indulgent food and wine and a return to the obligatory gym.
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