We have had a lovely week so this is going to be a photo heavy post, and I will try to keep the chat to a minimum.
We were straight into the action on Saturday when our choir Cantante had it's last performance of the season. We joined up with La Coral Maria Auxiliadora, which is based at the parish church in the village of Zurgena, where our choir leader Julie lives.
First the Spanish choir sang some carols and Christmas songs, and then a group of the village children did some. Don't they look lovely in their long burgundy dresses?
When the children sat down, we joined with the choir and we all sang together. The song was 'Joy to the world'. First the Spanish choir did a verse in their language, and then we did a verse in English, and then we all sang the last verse together (in Spanish)- Gloria el Señor - and everybody loved it.
Then it was our turn to do some songs before the finale.
It was a lovely night of music, and a great way to forge links between the Spanish and British communities.
The church is very old, and is perched on top of a hill, and all through the concerts we could hear the wind whistling around it. We had a horrid drive home with tumble-weeds and other debris blowing across the road, and the car was buffeted as we drove along the exposed stretches of the motorway, but thankfully we arrived home safely.
The next night was the Eve of Epiphany or Los Reyes, (The Kings). This is a more important celebration than Christmas out here, and is the time when the children receive their main gifts, from the three kings, not Santa! These days they mostly seem to get something from Santa as well, but Christmas is mainly a time for families to meet up and enjoy a relaxing time together. But on Sunday night, in most villages, there is some sort of a procession to celebrate the arrival of the kings. This is fairly low key in our village, so our kings arrived together in a truck, decorated with polystyrene lollipops I think! Of course they had very loud music blaring, and they threw bucket loads of sweets out as they went. All the children follow the truck with carrier bags, and often collect a kilo or more of sweets each! (It can be quite painful if one hits you!)
They end up at a big marquee down near the plaza, where they dismount with their attendants and go up on the stage to hand out gifts to the children (previously taken to the town hall by their parents). Not all the families participate in this, and I have no idea how it is all explained to the children, but it is fun to watch, There is a huge discrepancy between the gifts, but they look equally delighted whether they receive a new bike, a rag doll or a matchbox car.
I am still learning about these traditions, but as I understand it, the next morning (twelfth night to us), most Spanish children wake up to three gifts, one from each of the kings. Some houses have a rope ladder with three kings climbing up it, attached to their windows, in the same way some UK houses have a Santa. Some even have both!
Then that morning, 6th January, our village is unique around here because we have a Three Kings Fiesta. This starts with the arrival of the kings on horses, and the re-enactment at King Herod's palace, of the events there. i.e. the arrival of the Kings to enquire where the new king might be found, King Herod's demanding of his soldiers to find more information, and eventually his ordering that all baby boys in the area must be killed. Men love dressing up here, and they all turn out each year in their armour, and play out the same scenes, and we just love it all. Especially the fact that no-one is concerned about political correctness. They think nothing of blacking their faces for the event.
Here are a few photos of this part of the fiesta.
The rest of the day is taken up with a medieval market with rides such as this one. I love it that quite big children are still happy to don pirate hats and have a ride in a wooden ship, rocked by a man pulling on a piece of rope. One of the best things about living in rural Spain, is that they are a decade or two behind the rat-race and commercialism of UK and elsewhere these days. And I hope I'm not still around when they catch up!
At the shooting range, even tiny lads are encouraged by their dads to try their hand with rifles. (They will use them to hunt rabbits or even wild boar to feed their families when they grow up). And they could win anything from a cigarette lighter to a gold-fish or even a baby white rat! Now you won't see that in UK any more.
Outside the marquee a charcoal fire was lit early in the morning, and used to cook an enormous pan of migas. This is my least favourite Spanish dish and it is basically lots of flour tipped into a vat of boiling water and oil, so it clogs together into lumps of dough. This is seasoned and chopped as it cooks until you have a pan of lumpy bits.
Later whole cloves of garlic, sausage and other meats are added. This is served around 2.00, free of charge to anyone who chooses to queue for it. I don't usually bother, but we did share a dish this year, and enjoyed the sauages, even if we did waste rather a lot of the migas. It is served with raw broad beans. I didn't fancy these at all when I first saw them, but at this time of year they are young and small, and actually taste really good. The locals have a clever trick with their fingers where they can break the pod and push out a bean in one deft movement. I haven't mastered it yet!
In their own homes, migas is often used to top a stew or soup, much as we might use dumplings, and with some good strong gravy I think it could taste a lot better.
If you are not into migas, and have some money in your pocket, there are plenty of other food stalls to tempt you. From cheeses, to cakes, tapas to grilled meats, there is something for everyone. This barbecue had strings of sausages, racks of ribs, and a huge joint of pork all cooking away, when some fat fell onto the coals and he nearly needed a fire extinguisher. He rescued all his meat before he tackled the flames, so I don't think he was selling too many burnt offerings.
Throughout the proceedings, a small troupe of medieval street entertainers, walked around the village. I admired their stamina because they kept going for hours, and smiled all day!
Each year my friend Cati organises a cart of local produce which is raffled to raise money for her charity, ASADIS.
The streets were lined with stalls selling hand crafted ornaments and jewelry. We stood and watched this man painting roof tiles. He made it look so easy.
We decided to buy one and we both liked the one he had just done which was mainly mono-chrome, with just a few dashes of bright colour. We carried it home carefully because the paint was still wet, and after four days it is still not completely dry. But it is almost now, so it is hanging in the kitchen where the air is probably the warmest, and soon we will find a hook for it out on the porch.
After all the excitement, Tuesday was relatively quiet and I used the day to take down and pack away, all my Christmas decorations. The house always looks very bare after this, but at least it meant there was a socket free so I could plug in the new lamp that was one of my presents.
It is so pretty, like a big egg covered in little mosaic tiles of green glass and mirrors. It throws a lovely pattern of light onto the wall behind it.
I collected together a big pile of all our cards and Arwen helped me to sort them into ones I might salvage items from to make new cards, ones that I kept for ideas and inspiration, and ones that I shall give to my friend who recycles them to make cards to sell next Christmas, to raise funds for our church.
Then came Wednesday and we had to set our alarms as I had an appointment at the eye hospital for 8.30, and it is a good half hour's drive from here. The positive to come from that, is that I was up in time to see the sunrise. It started off with lovely streaks of pink to my right, which were reflected in the bank of clouds behind the mountains on the other side of the motorway.
By the time we had reached the hospital the sun was up, but because it was a bit cloudy we could just see it trying to break through.
The appointment itself was very positive. I managed to converse with the doctor in Spanish until the last little bit, which she then explained to me in broken English. I have been increasingly concerned because I have almost no vision in my left eye, the one I had a cataract removed from just two years ago. She explained that the membrane behind the new lens has clouded over, and they will make a hole in this with a laser so I can see again. This is going to be done on 24th April, so I still have a little while to wait, but at least I know something is going to be done.
Guess how I spent Thursday? Well it is now time to start a month or two of marmalade making. I have not been given any bitter oranges yet, so I decided to use some grapefruit that I bought before Christmas and didn't use, together with some lemons a friend gave me, and some oranges I scrumped from the house next door, (well they were hanging into my garden!), and I made Three Fruits marmalade. I still prefer the bitter orange marmalade but lots of my customers ask me for three fruits. The fruit in the first photo is what the recipe says to use, and I can get twice that much in my preserving pan, so that's what I made, and as I still had one grapefruit left, I then did the single batch, and altogether I have made twenty three jars of marmalade. They look very uniform this time, because the first lot I make after Christmas gets my mincemeat jars so they are all the same!
And finally - are you still with me?! This morning when I went round the back to call the dogs for their breakfast, I was delighted to see almond blossom out on a little, ancient tree in the green zone. It is another month before we see this everywhere, and the air is filled with it's scent as you drive passed, but this little tree always has the first blossom I see, and nearly always it comes out in the first week of January. It is thin and weedy looking, but nonetheless, it is the promise that spring is on the way!
And with that happy thought I will leave you for this week. Thank you for staying the course. I don't think there is much planned for next week so it won't be another long post then, but I thought you would enjoy sharing our little fiesta this week. Now I just need to link this up with Virginia at Celtic House, and Annie at her Friday Smiles. See you all next week.