Saturday, January 9, 2010

Twelfth Day

There is a lot of controversy about the actual date of twelfth night, but I go with the train of thought that it falls on the 5th January, and is follwed by twelfth day on 6th. But either way, it is of course the time when we celebrate Epiphany, or the visit of the three kings to Baby Jesus. It is a very important time in Spain, and a much greater celebration for them than Christmas is. It is when the children receive their presents from the Three Kings, which is perhaps more pertinent to the true story of Christmas, than receiving gifts from a man in a red suit, usually known as Santa Claus. These gifts are given on Twelfth night, (I don't know how they get their children to go to bed after that!), and most towns and villages have some sort of parade then involving the arrival of the kings, who then distribute the presents, supplied by their parents, to the local children. Our village also has a fiesta throughout the next day, but we are an exception, and I don't know of any other places that do so just around here.
In my last blog I told you about the medieval market which opened on the morning of twelfth night.
Well in the evening we walked back into town to watch the arrival of the kings. They were all three on one huge float, with several helpers each, and they threw handfulls of confetti and sweets at the people lining the streets. When they reached the plazza they got down and went into the big marquee, set up on the car park there. Soon lots of families arrived and sat in rows in front of the platform, and the helpers started fetching parcels from a huge pile at the back of the stage. They took them to a girl at the microphone who called out the child's name and then took it to one of the kings. The child duly went to collect their gift, while cameras flashed and parents watched on. It was all rather fun. The kings took time to talk to each child, sat them on their knee, gave them a kiss and a handful of sweets on their present and sent them on their way. (There is a lot less political correctness here, and it is good to see adults interacting with children without fear of someone complaining or accusing them of inappropriate behaviour!). It was facinating to watch the children afterwards. Some just handed their gift to their parents and went back to playing with their friends, others were itching to open theirs, but had obviously been told to wait until they got home, so they were tearing back little corners of paper to get a peek. Some were running round showing everyone what they had, and others were just hugging them to themselves and smiling. We saw one little girl of about five who was ecstatic when she got a big, colourful rag doll. She was hugging and kissing it, and throwing it up and catching it. She was so happy. Some gifts were very elaborate. We saw a big scalectix set, electronic games, and one little boy had a very big bike! It was a lovely time enjoyed by all the village. Several elderly couples were there just to enjoy seeing the children. We met Antonio, a Spanish man in his late seventies who we often speak to in our local bar. Chris offered to buy him a drink but he said 'Oh no. I have come to watch the children' We hadn't realised how many small children there are in the village. It took well over an hour to distribute all the gifts. After that we went back out to the plazza and had a very tasty donner-kebab wrap for our supper.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. We heard the market open again as this was signalled by several loud fireworks firing off one after another. The poor dogs were shaking with fright and we had to sit with them to calm them down again. At around 11.00 we went across to the plazza in time to see the arrival of the kings. This time they were accompanied by real camels, and were preceeded by musicians, drummers and more children throwing copious amounts of confetti and sweets at the crowd. They then enacted the scene from King Herod's Palace when the kings ask where the new baby was. It was exactly the same as last year, and I gather it is every year, so it is a very strong tradition and important to them in the village. The costumes worn by the kings are very elaborate and beautiful. One King has plenty of boot-blacking on his face. (Again, no political correctness allowed to spoil the proceedings).
After the performance we sat on the plazza and watched the dancers and street entertainers, and all the children enjoying the rides. Around the corner there was a roped off square where 'soldiers' were practicing throwing axes at a target, giving archery lessons to young and old alike, having tug of wars and mock sword fights. Everywhere there was food and drink stalls. The vats of boiling octopus are not at all appealing to me, but the Spanish were buying loads of it. The stall holder just hoiks one out of the vat with a long hook and cuts it into hunks with scissors, and serves it on a tray with rough local bread. We shared a rack of ribs off the barbeque and they were very good. We have our own charity recently started in the village, to raise money for special treats, equipment and treatment for the ten or so disabled children in the village. They were running a raffle at the market and the prize was a barrow loaded with local produce including fruit and veg, cheese and sausages, and wine. The ticket sellers were gaining attention by giving out grapes that had been soaked in a very strong aniseed liquor. I imagine it was alcoholic but I'm not sure. It was very nice anyway! A lot of the stalls were run by local craft people selling coffee, cheese, bread, pies, pottery and jewellry. I bought two lots of cheese, and three pretty necklaces. At least, I bought two, and then Chris bought me another one. The Spanish wear lots of heavy jewellry and some is too chunky for me, but I love some of the pendants and it's nice to be able to match one to whatever you are wearing.
Meanwhile,next to the marquee on the main car park, there was a huge pan of food being cooked. On the programme this was just called comida popular, or popular food. I was hoping it was a paella but this year they made migas, another typical andalucian dish, often served alone, but also as a topping to a casserole, or as one dish on a loaded table of other traditional dishes at fiestas or family gatherings. When I asked my Spanish teacher about it he said, "Oh yes. We have migas on rainy days"!! He couldn't tell me why. He said "Oh we just say It is raining. We will have migas". Anyway, I tried to take a series of photos showing the stages of it being made. Unfortunately the batteries in my camera ran out just before the end, so I went home and charged them up for an hour, and just got back out again in time to collect a plateful of migas to give it a try. First a fire was lit using big logs, and a stand was placed over it to hold a huge shallow pan. This was half filled with water and left to boil. Several bags of salt were added and then two or three big bottles of what I think was oil, but it could have been concentrated stock. This was stirred and when it was well mixed, five sack of flour were added. It was all stirred and turned using sort of rakes and shovels, until it was all golden and resembled large breadcrumbs. Finally, and this is where my camera failed, lots of garlic was added in whole, unpeeled cloves, small spicy choritzo sausages, and strips of fatty pancetta which here is cured or uncured thin rashers of belly pork. Everyone started queuing up around the railings and big platefuls were served up, for free, to anyone from the village who wanted it. They then perched at the few tables provided by the barbeque stall, or on steps and kerb stones, wherever there was a space, to enjoy their lunch. They were given handfuls of green beans with their plate of food, and they broke them open and ate the beans raw with the migas. A Spanish lady told me that in the home it is often served covered with pomegranate seeds instead. Chris stayed home sunbathing in the garden, with the dogs who were still traumatised by the morning fireworks, and were glad of his company. But I went back down and had my dish of migas. The flavour was rather bland but quite pleasant, and it complemented the spicy taste of the sausages. I must admit, I much prefer paella, which is similar but uses rice rather than flour, and in general the English people did not like the migas. But they are not all very good at trying new things, and always want to find what they are used to in England. I don't always like the Spanish food but I'm game to try anything. I expect I'll have a go at the boiled octopus one day, but I'll wait until someone offers me a bite of theirs rather than spend out fiesta prices on a big plateful! I'm not looking forward to being offered pigs ears. They are a real delicacy out here and I'm told they have a consistancy similar to jellied eels!
Anyway, I went home for a while and in the evening we both went back down to the marquee where there was music and dancing from around 5.00. The Spanish do love to dance and before long there were couples of all ages on the dance floor. There was a live trio who sang some songs for the children, and they all went up on the stage and had hats on while they danced around, and then they sang some more dramatic numbers and a few, who presumably had had dancing lessons at some time, were doing a type of flemenco dancing. After that it was all sorts of popular songs, some Spanish and some English, and everyone 'did their own thing'. It was a really good day and what a blessing the weather was. The next day we woke up to heavy and persistant rain thet kept falling all day. I stayed home and got all the decorations down and packed them away in the garage until next year.
I have just realised that this is much too long. Sorry if I have rambled on a bit. To save making it too much longer I will just add a few photos here, but if you go to my gallery ( you will find a whole folder of photos. I've called it Los Tres Reyes to distinguish it from the Three Kings I put on there last year.

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