do you say Merry Christmas in Spain ? "Feliz
Christmas is a deeply religious
holiday in Spain. The country's patron saint is the
Virgin Mary and the
Christmas season officially begins December 8, the
feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is celebrated
each year in front of the great Gothic cathedral in
Seville with a ceremony called los Seises or the "dance
of six." Oddly, the elaborate ritual dance is
now performed by not six but ten elaborately costumed
boys. It is a series of precise movements and gestures
and is said to be quite moving and beautiful.
In Spain it is a very festive time at Christmas. On
Christmas Eve, as the stars come out, tiny oil lamps
are lit in every house, and after Midnight Mass and
Christmas Dinner, streets fill with dancers and onlookers.
There is a special Christmas dance called the Jota
and the words and music have been handed down for hundreds
of years. They dance to the sound of guitars and castanets.
Most homes have a manger, like cathedrals and churches.
These are complete with carved figures. Children think
of the Three Wise Man as the gift bearers. Tradition
has it that they arrive on January 6th, the date the
Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus. The Spanish especially
honor the cow at Christmas because it is thought that
when Mary gave birth to Jesus the cow in the stable
breathed on the Baby Jesus to keep him warm.
Shoes are filled with straw
or barley for the tired camels that must carry their
riders through the busy night. By morning the camel
food is gone and in place of the straw or barley
are presents. Shoes also may be placed on balconies
on the night of the 6th January in the hope that
the Wise Men will fill them with gifts.
Christmas Eve is known
as Nochebuena or "the Good Night." It is
a time for family members to gather together to rejoice
and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present
in nearly every home. A traditional Christmas treat
is turron, a kind of almond candy.