Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo! In Spain, we have just finished celebrating the holidays, and although kids open up some presents on Christmas Eve, Spain doesn’t celebrate Christmas until the 6th of January. This day is called the Feast of the Epiphany (Día de Los Reyes Magos) when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I like that they stick to the actual meaning of what Christmas is about rather than the belief of Santa Clause. They believe that this event happened around this date rather than the 25th of December. I find this to be actually refreshing. People still shop for gifts; thus Madrid is a chaotic madhouse at the time, but I like that they keep the story alive about Christ’s birth.
Another tradition that they celebrate during the holidays is called The Eating of Twelve Grapes which is held on New Year's day at 12 A.M. At the stroke of midnight one grape is to be eaten for each second the clock strikes. It’s a tradition based on the superstition that by doing this you will have good luck in the New Year. I was unable to participate in it on New Year’s Day, which I will explain in the next blog, but was able to do so the day before school let out for the holidays. My elementary school celebrates this every year, before their holiday break, on the blacktop, where the principal counts down for the kids to eat the twelve grapes. Now that I’m thinking about it, I just realized how dangerous this is for kids, but luckily no one choked…except for me--but I digress. Although I’m not big on superstitions, it was quite fun to participate and not to mention quite delicious.
Another tradition I was fortunate to participate in around this same time was that of my host family’s. Every Christmas holiday they drive forty-five minutes outside of Madrid to go to a shelter called C.E.M.U (Ciudad Escuela Muchachos) that my host mother’s uncle, Alberto Muñiz Sánchez, built and founded years ago. Sánchez used to be an architect in Madrid but found more life and satisfaction in helping others.
I very much admire this characteristic about him and not only is this a place where children can get a second chance at life, but they are thoroughly prepared for the real world based on the infrastructure of the institution. He built it as a small town, which consists of a bank, hair salon, a vocational study with diversification workshops, dorms, cafeteria, church, a farm where they grow their own food and a town hall where they elect their town president. It doesn’t get much better than that!
During our visit, we attended their Christmas service, where there were singing and a short sermon. I couldn’t help but to let my mind wander off to the movie, Sister Act 2, when they were singing, “Oh Happy Day.” I was so tempted to stand up and bust out on the high note that Ryan Toby from the group City High is famous for singing.
Google: Sister Act 2- Song 'Happy Day' to see what I’m talking about.
However, I was quickly humbled by the fact that I can’t even scream, let alone try to hit an octave similar to that of Mariah Carey’s. Plus, I’m still trying to get over my fear of publicly displaying any of my talents. New Year's resolution you say? Maybe.
Between participating in The Eating of the Twelve Grapes and going to C.E.M.U, I’d say my holidays were off to a good start. I found this part of it very insightful and entertaining, and I’m glad I spent part of it in Spain, but I can’t wait to share with you how my sister and I actually spent the holidays. Be prepared to read more stories to come in the next blog where Stephanie and I go to London, Paris, and Iceland for Christmas and New Year's Eve and the misadventures that followed.