Despite being a catholic country, Christmas creeps on you surprisingly slowly in rural Catalonia. Instead of being assaulted by a baseball bat of Christmasness sometime mid-September like back in Blighty, you can find yourself halfway through December before you finally twig that the big day is looming large and as per usual you’ve done jack shit about it all.
For those who have recently moved to rural Catalonia, or for anyone considering living here in the coming years I’ve created a guide as to how you know it’s Christmas in Catalonia. It’s really simple, look for these clues:
Sometime in October, inexplicably your favourite items in the supermarket will have been replaced by rows and rows of turrón (a type of nougat). Boxes and boxes of panettone will follow in November, despite not a single person in the supermarket ever buying either one of these products (and panettone being Italian).
By mid-November the ends of each aisle in the supermarket become a health and safety hazard as you attempt to weave your trolley around precariously balanced displays of either cava or Ferrero Rocher, or in some very imaginative places, both.
Early December sees the usual 1940s wartime music on the village announcement tannoy (yes we have one of these) be replaced by some good old fashioned Christmas Carols. Each day at 1.30pm precisely you will be treated to an extremely scratchy Catalan version of We Three Kings, not quite the same as the Salvation Army band striking up but relatively festive.
By the third week of December some entrepreneurial youngsters will knock on your front door offering to sell you chocolate advent calendars for €3 a chuck. They will then proceed to call you a miserable git when you refuse and they spy you’ve got a couple of kids.
Come the beginning of December the presence of Yuletide becomes more obvious as halves of dead animals will suddenly appear in the freezer section. From baby suckling pigs to sheep; sawn straight down the middle from nose to tail and plonked in between the fish fingers and Dr. Oetker pizzas.
|"Sawn in half, then frozen? Get the fuck outta here!"|
A few days prior to the big event you will be invited to the village music group’s (of which your son is a member) Christmas concert. This will involve sitting, watching and giggling at some of the village’s finest young musical talents murder their instruments one by one. This ordeal will last approximately 4 hours and there won’t be a hint of liquor around to make it more palatable. It will cease to be funny sometime around 9.30pm when you realise they’ve only just completed the woodwind section and there’s brass and percussion to follow. Just in case you’re tempted to nip out the back door and slope off, the sly bastards keep the kiddie’s Christmas carol bit until the end, somewhere around 11.30pm.
On the last day of school you will be invited to watch the children perform in a carol concert in the village church—unless it rains, which it does almost every year. Clearly weeks of practicing for both children and staff alike mean nothing if some of that there wet stuff falls from the sky, this is particularly annoying as the church is practically next door to the school.
Everyone starts talking about some log that shits presents for the children when spanked with a large stick. The ‘caga tió’ is a proud Catalan tradition that I have yet to get my English head around.
On Christmas Eve, Santa will ride around the village on the back of a tractor. Not one single child under the age of 8 will actually be able to see him, this is because almost every teenager in the village will be surrounding him dolling out beakers full of nuclear temperature hot chocolate whilst smoking Marlboros and pretending to look cool. Thinking on, I’m guessing the music club teenagers probably aren’t in on this.
So there you have it, the definitive guide to the run up to a Catalan Christmas. Luckily for me I have British television so I can fill my boots with misogynistic adverts from Asda and Morrisons, be informed daily of the latest sofa sales at DFS and laugh my tits off at Brad Pitt’s Chanel No. 5 advert. The best of both worlds!