Traditions from home and abroad mingled this year, and new traditions began as old ones were put away. The warm sun made this a very different Christmas from those of previous years, plus a new village, new neighbours, and the first Christmas in 54 years without Mum.
The elves on the window-sill are as old as I am, and the porcelain choristers too. But the Santa hanging from a rope tied to my balcony is new, and the candles in every room are there as much in case of power cuts as for any seasonal purpose.
A first for me was buying a ticket for the El Gordo lottery, and watching the TV programme on Saturday morning to see if my neighbours and I were all to be rich. The system of distributing tickets around the country generally means that luck falls not just individually but on a whole village. This time it was not to be us, but hearing the schoolchildren singing out the numbers and the prizes was a bizarre experience.
Singing carols with the Alegría Singers felt like old times and reminded me of my time with Goldsmiths Choral Union, performing at the Albert Hall every Christmas. This year the venue was a little different, but Moreno’s Bar in Puente Don Manuel gave us mince pies for our efforts, which had never happened at the Albert Hall!
Going out for a Christmas morning walk is a revived tradition – throughout the 80s and 90s Mum and I were in the habit of taking a three- or four-night hotel break for Christmas, and with no cooking responsibilities would always don walking boots and cover five or six miles before lunch (with Mum’s hip-flask charged with whisky!). So it felt like an old tradition to pull on the boots this year, though it made a change to be out at Christmas in a light jumper rather than wrapped in seven layers against a cold biting wind
And as the now-familiar path took me towards the Enchanted Place, a surprise – yesterday’s very hot sun plus some night-time drizzle had combined to bring out the first of the almond blossom (surely earlier than usual?). Very symbolic ….. new beginnings, the cycle of life, turning the corner towards a new season. A delightful and unexpected bonus, and despite the analogies fighting for space in my mind, it made the walk a happy one, not a sad one.
After my walk it was back home to open presents and to raise a toast to Mum. The last few Christmases had been tough for her as she became frailer, but a picture of her in her dressing gown opening her presents last year will always be a special one. Her appetite had largely gone so Christmas lunch consisted of just a few tempting morsels – a sliver of smoked salmon, a couple of prawns, and a mouthful of a favourite locally-made game pie.
So my Christmas lunch at Bar CO2 was a return to an old tradition I’d missed for several years. As English as it could be. Proper Christmas dinner with crackers and hats, but with the Spanish square outside, the fountain and the Ayuntamiento (town hall).
Christmas lights, different yet the same. Nativity scenes, different yet the same. A Christmas walk, different yet the same. Spanish and English cultures, mixing. So many things completely different, which over time will become normal. A Spang-lish Christmas. Every tradition had to begin somewhere, once upon a time. Today is the first Christmas of the rest of your life – happy Christmas everyone.
© Tamara Essex 2012