Sending you all love and Christmas cheer from Sevilla - Paula and Paul
First off, Christmas in Europe in general tends to be a bit lower key than in the US. What’s missing? The obsessive buy, buy, buy that seems to be such a large part of the holiday experience in the US. Oh sure, stores here have sales this time of year, and window displays remind us of all the fine gifts available. But I get the sense that people here (by which I mean Europe in general, and Seville in particular) are more invested in the spirit of the holidays: being together with family and friends, having special foods and drinks only seen at this time of year, that kind of thing. And of course, Spain being a very Catholic country, celebration of one of the more important religious events of the year, too.
And then there are the Christmas carols, or lack thereof. Most stores don’t have music systems installed, so we almost never hear canned music while shopping. There are a few exceptions, though, and they always seem to play classic American music, including classic Christmas songs. (Really! It’s like 1982 all over again.) In fact, most of the music we hear in public, playing in casual cafés, is American soft rock from the 80s. Maybe that’s what the hip young folks here want to hear. (Or maybe because I notice when I hear American music, but don’t notice when I hear Spanish music? Always a possibility…)
We went out last Saturday night, walked around the cathedral, looked at the Christmas lights. Just us and most of the inhabitants of Seville! It was massively crowded, almost difficult to move. Fabulous! We took a few photos of the lights, but it was hard to manoeuver. So we came back on Monday night. What a difference! This time, the streets were almost deserted.
|Crowds along Avenida de la Constitución, looking at the Christmas lights|
|First view of the three crowns!|
Monday night we got a good look at the Three Crowns, a municipal Christmas decoration that is new this year (for us, at least). The Three Crowns represent the three Kings, or the three wise men. The Three Kings are really at the heart of Christmas celebration here in Spain; so much so that not much of a fuss is made over December 25 (the birth day of the Baby Jesus, in the Christian tradition). The real celebration happens on January 6, the Epiphany in the Christian calendar, which here is called Three Kings Day: the day the three kings (wise men) came from the East to visit the baby Jesus. That’s the day gifts are exchanged, and the day of the big parade. (At least, last time we were here there was a big parade; we won’t comment on it this year until after it’s actually happened…)
|All three crowns|
|The Blue One, seen from inside the Red One|
|La Giralda peeking over the rooftops (always exciting to see!)|
|And at the far end of Avenida de la Constitución, a Christmas tree in lights!|
Anyway, holiday season here is in full swing, and we are certainly enjoying it!
|Every neighborhood has its own style of lights.|
|The crowns during the day. Not so interesting!|
Part of the holiday celebrations here in Spain revolve around the Nativity scenes, or beléns. The city itself has one on public display, as do many private businesses. While we know very few residents here, it’s clear that many homes have a belén as well. And whereas Nativity scenes in the States generally are limited to the Baby Jesus and his adoring parents, as well as a few other adoring individuals (like the aforementioned wise men), the style here is to build an entire pre-Christian village, including scenes from village life (with considerable license given to creative additions...)
And to help people build the belén of their dreams, there is a whole Christmas market around the Cathedral dedicated to providing scale models: of people, buildings, animals, fruits and vegetables, loaves of bread… Some are animated: sawing wood, driving nails; shaking out rugs; kneading bread; cutting meat. And water features, with running streams and ponds (one year I saw, on the shelves for sale, grey/black cotton wool clouds with tiny sprayers to create a rain storm). I am told there are collectors who dedicate entire rooms to village scenes, populated with figurines collected over many holiday seasons. I think of it like an extensive model train layout, with a more focused theme.
|Seville's Christmas Market around the cathedral|
|This market is closed now, but it will be open tomorrow!|
|Pretty much any tiny thing you might want for your scene is available here!|
While we have not traveled widely in Spain, from what I’ve read these extensive beléns are popular all over Spain. People generally unpack them around October, to find out what may have been lost or broken in storage. Of course, most people will want to extend the belén, add another figurine or two, maybe a camel; possibly an elephant. And perhaps a few more tiny loaves of bread…
|Need some more tiny rolls, a baket of eggs, or a realistic bread oven for your belen?|
|Another, somewhat unconventional nativity scene.|
|Detail from yet another nativity scene. Moorish buildings in the background, Egyptian pyramid up front. Why not?!|
|Gates to the city -- Jerusalem?|
|At last, the creche with the Baby Jesus!|
Wherever you are this Holiday season, no matter what you are doing, and whatever your traditions may be, we wish you all the best this Christmas and on into the New Year!