Although our Christmas was spent in Germany with family, this blog is about Spain, so here are some highlights from the lead up to Navidad in Tortosa.
The Christmas spirit is alive and well here, although not officially until the long weekend of the 6th to the 8th of December. Before that time the fairy lights hung throughout the town lay dark. The 8th of December is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and a public holiday across Spain. Since then, the streets and buildings have been covered in Christmas lights and signs wishing you Bones Festes or Bon Nadal (happy holidays and Merry Christmas in Catalan). It’s beautiful.
In Tortosa, the long weekend was also when the Christmas market was held. Local crafts, crepe vans, and a vat of melted chocolate that was given out free to children (and lost-looking Australians) were all part of the party. While not quite as Christmassy as the German Weihnachtsmarkt, it still made us feel very festive.
As Christmas came closer, more and more decorations were put into shop windows, and more and more Santas appeared. The weekend before Christmas we spotted three giving out lollies in the street, one on a stage posing with children, and one being pulled on a tricycle with an accompanying Santa-dog behind a drumming band! This is weird because Spanish children generally receive their gifts from the Three Kings on January the 6th. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of that one.
Nougat also seems to be a big part of Christmas here, although maybe it’s important year-round and I just don’t know it yet. There are beautiful little nougat (or torrens) stores selling slabs of the stuff, along with almond meal cakes baked into the shapes of animals.
Nougat plays an important role in the story of Tió de Nadal the Christmas Log. Tió is ubiquitous Christmas companion around these parts, and we’ve seen him in shops everywhere. Tió’s job is to sit at the fireplace and get ‘fed’ by the family every day from the 8th of December until Christmas Eve. On the 24th, little Tió is beaten up until he craps out nougat and candy, and not a stinky herring. There’s even a song about it! Apparently Catalonians also install El Caganer, a little pooing man in their nativity scenes, another glorious faeces-based Christmas tradition.
Feliz Navidad y Bon Nadal!