Thursday, 3 January 2008
Open flames, fire water, and warm wishes
Hola, faithful readers! Feliz Año Nuevo to us all. (Another one like 2007 might just do us in, but it´s still not as bad as 2001. Euugh.)
We spent New Year´s Eve over at the Milagro House, on the corner of the Plaza Mayor. It started out pretty small and quiet, with just the eponymous Mom Milagros, Pop Esteban, and Estebanito and José, the Milagro Boys.. and another neighbor, Edu´s Brother Who Lives in Segovia, whose name I don´t know. It was as civilized a convo as you can have, having eaten a mess of seafood lasagna for dinner and then tucked into tons of cookies and turrones.
These guys seem to take great delight in smacking down bottles of home-brewed likker in front of Paddy, wheeling out a collection of frosted shot glasses, and fillin´em up and knockin´em down from there. Dear ol´ Pad does his best to meet their expectations, but me? As an Official Girl, I can go easy. I had to drive, y´know. I´ve noticed how they look askance at women who do just about anything to excess. So I stuck to the aguardiente-soaked cherries, which are delightful, long as there are no open flames about!
The Open Flames showed up at about quarter till midnight, when all the men and women, boys and girls of the Segundino Family next door rolled into the big gathering room. Milagros put more coal in the stove, and corks popped and everyone got big glasses of fresh, hard Asturian cider to toast the midnight hour -- and more chocolates.
And oh yes, GRAPES! All over Spain, according to tradition, Spaniards mark each stroke of the midnight clock by stuffing a grape into their gobs. Yes, twelve grapes in about a quarter-minute´s time. You try it. And don´t use the seedless kind!
Then swallow a shot of hard cider straight after. Then kiss your sweetie, and cheek-kiss everybody in the room, and do ching-ching with your glasses, and go outside into the sleet and set off some explosives! Ain´t New Year´s Eve grand? (especially when one of the skyrockets smashes right into the church bell! What a lovely racket that was... scared every dog in town right out of his wits.
Seeing as we are usually tucked into our beds by 11 p.m., we didn´t last long after the big moment. I am not sure how much longer the party went on after that, but everyone there looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at Mass the next morning. Another tradition was observed there: after Communion Don Santiago, the smilin´ cura, holds up a tinsel-trimmed basket with a plastic baby Jesus in it, and all 20-odd faithful in the place must troop up to the front and kiss its upturned, pink knee.
This flies in the face of all my Calvinist upbringing, which included a heavy dose of the Exodus and Deuteronomy Old Testament Jehovah so fond of raining fire and salt down on people who "bow down before idols." Kissing baby dolls? No thanks. Paddy and I stayed in our pew, but when everyone else was finished Don Santiago looked at us and smiled and said, "This gift is for all of us. All our friends are welcome."
Even Jehovah Himself couldn´t say no to that kind of peer pressure. If I go to hell someday I´ll be basted right along with the Baal and Astarte Thor devotees, I´m sure.
...Better company than some religious people I can think of.
Anyway, in the days since we´ve kept quite quiet here. The weather has been misty and sharp, so we´ve kept near the fire in the kitchen. Our woodpile is shrinking away, alas! So much work, and it´s only January! I hope we have enough for the winter. Yesterday I wrote a letter in both languages to the Spanish Foreign Secretary, whose name is Miguel Angel Moratinos. I pointed out he has not visited the village that shares his name, and we´d like to have him visit for the big Fiesta in August. Who knows? He might just. It´s a great photo op, and we live right in the middle of Partido Popular territory... the opposition!
Friday winds up the holiday season hereabouts...it´s Three Kings Day, aka Epiphany, the day the kiddies all get to open presents. The adults get another big lottery drawing to blow 20 Euros on. And it´s the start of yet another long weekend!
I hope very much this means the constructors will show up and pitch in to working on Monday, but I won´t be surprised if they don´t. It may be a new year, but it´s the same old Spain!