Some Majorcan friends popped round for a festive supper this week and everyone generously brought gifts. There were bottles of home brewed cava, herbes, the local herbal liqueur, brandy and red wine, a sack of walnuts, a bowl brimming with kiwis, fresh honey, homemade bread, ensaimadas, the snail shaped pastries, and jars of homemade dried tomatoes and jam. No one had bothered to dress up and why would they here in rural Majorca? In winter time life’s all about being comfortable and not standing on ceremony-and of course keeping warm. Guests drifted in between eight and nine o’clock because of course time is elastic in our golden valley and dinner is rarely served before nine-thirty at night.
Our friends seemed bemused by the traditional Christmas tree with its twinkling lights and decorations, some of which hark back at least 20 years. They wanted to know why it was so important to us to have a large Nordic spruce in a pot cluttering up the hallway. I had to admit that this was no nostalgic nod to pre-Christian winter rites with their evergreen symbols of eternal life, Adam and Eve’s tree of Paradise from the medieval mystery plays or a liking for early modern German eccentricities, but rather a sentimental throwback to childhood Christmases spent in the company of family and an omnipresent aromatic fir.
At dinner Christmas crackers proved a great success and everyone dutifully donned a paper crown and read out their jokes and mottos with varying degrees of understanding. The novelty gift most coveted was the tiny set of screwdrivers and the penny whistle. I was explaining how in the mid nineteenth century London born Thomas Smith had invented the cracker, originally named a cosaque, and that it originally contained a bon bon, love message or poem and no banger. They were amazed to learn that 300 million Christmas crackers were sold annually with a revenue of about £60 million. A few pondered whether it was a trend that might happily catch on in Majorca but I think not. Most Spaniards I know would be far too engrossed in the serious pleasures of eating and drinking during the festive period to become distracted by such betises and sideshows.
Of course aside from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s business as usual here in Majorca until New Year and the Three Kings event in early January. I put this to the test today when I rang Telefonica about the sudden demise of my internet service on Christmas Eve. Barely an hour later a white van made its way laboriously up our country track and a smiling engineer wished us all ‘Molts d’anys’ as he set about fixing the problem. He had valiantly travelled from the mountain village of Valldemossa in steady rain to help get me back online. As he bade a cheery farewell and seasonal greetings I pondered whether such an encounter would ever have happened on Boxing Day back in the UK.
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