Poco a poco, paso por paso …. Little by little, step by step. Each Christmas and New Year in a new country represents another step forward in learning about and understanding my new environment. The first Christmas day here, I went to a lovely English-run bar for turkey and all the English trimmings. The second, I stayed with an English friend in a Spanish hotel, and we had a traditional Spanish Christmas Eve dinner AND a traditional English Christmas Day lunch! Followed by a German-style enormous buffet meal that evening! This year, Christmas number three, was a strange mixture of Spanish, Argentinian and English traditions at home.
Christmas began early with the annual community breakfast in the next village, Riogordo, where I attend Spanish lessons. The Adult Education centre there is thriving, with Spanish elders taking basic maths and literacy, to catch them up on lost years of education. Another group takes English lessons, and there are two big multi-cultural groups of extranjeros taking either beginners’ Spanish or intermediate. The whole Adult Ed centre gets together for a community breakfast on the last day of term, and each class had prepared some music to perform.
We had each brought something traditional from our own country to share. A Dutch woman had made special Dutch cakes, I brought English teabags (!), someone else brought crumpets, there were treats from Germany, Iran, Ireland, and of course huge mountains of Spanish roscos, cakes, cheese, hot chocolate and coffee. I plonked myself down next to Francisca, a Spanish lady of about 80 who was studying maths and reading. She looked suspiciously at the crumpets, and instead produced a tray of roscos she had made, and commandeered the thermos of hot chocolate. She had lived in Riogordo all her life, though proudly told me that her mother had once spent a year living in the province of Granada. “She was very adventurous” said Francisca.
When it was time for the singing, Francisca’s group lustily sang vilancicos accompanied by the strange indescribable sounds of the zambomba, a hand-made gourd played by plunging a stick in and out of a tight hole. Well the truth is, the sound is NOT indescribable – but to describe it would be to admit it sounds like nothing more than a loud fart, so it is really best left undescribed. Our group sang a couple of English-language carols and a couple with Spanish verses. Then the Spanish women burst into rounds of “Ande, Ande, Ande” from the tables, random people taking a verse, and us all joining in on the chorus “Ande, ande ande, la Marimorena, Ande ande ande es la Nochebuena.”
It was a lovely morning, sharing food and songs across cultures, and despite being an extranjera (being from Colmenar, instead of Riogordo) I felt very included in their village celebration.
Argentinian Christmas traditions arrived on Christmas Eve (la Nochebuena) with a huge meal cooked out on the terrace on the barbecue at 10pm while the Colmenar fireworks soared above us in the night sky. I added cauliflower cheese to the meal to bring something of England to the table! Two days later an even bigger session at the barbecue included an entire leg of lamb, cooked to perfection. New ways of doing things – I think I’ve reached the stage now where nothing surprises me, I’ll just go with the flow.
Long walks in the woods and the mountains, hot chocolate under the village Christmas lights, fried bread in the neighbour’s kitchen, watching the International Space Station go overhead from the jacuzzi, and eating twelve lucky grapes at midnight with good friends on New Year’s Eve. Málaga may have the spectacular Christmas lights, but Colmenar is home.
© Tamara Essex 2015 http://www.twocampos.com
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
“Noche de Paz” is sung to the tune of “Silent Night”, though the words are not a translation of the English nor of the original German, more a free composition along the same theme ….. (is Spanish the ONLY language that has a decent word to rhyme with “Jesus”?):
Noche de paz, noche de amor, Todo duerme en derredor,
Entre los astros que esparcen su luz,
Bella anunciando al niñito Jesús,
Brilla la estrella de paz, brilla la estrella de paz.
Noche de paz, noche de amor, ved que bella resplandor,
Luz en el rostro del niño Jesús,
En el pesebre de mundo la luz,
Astro de eterno fulgor, astro de eterno fulgor.
Noche de paz, noche de amor, oye humilde el fiel pastor,
Como celestes que aclaman salud,
Gracias y glorias en gran plenitud,
Por nuestro buen redentor, por nuestro buen redentor.