Flying High

R E G E N T  S T R E E T : : L O N D O N  U K

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Sant Sebestià Fest~ Palma

Saint Sebastian is Palma de Mallorca’s patron saint and is honored for a week long during the end of January with each day becoming more and more adventuresome. Tonight there will be devils, fire and torradas. Will you dare the devils or will they dare you?

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Devils aren’t part of the celebration of Sant Sebastià, they are from the fiesta of Sant Antoni but the two are celebrated in Mallorca at the end of January and they have kind of merged together. Which makes for one fun party! The devils come for you as the correfoc (firerun) continues on, careful for fireworks and devils spitting fire at you.

The correfocs are my favorite.

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It’s cold in Mallorca so don’t forget your warm clothes, sausages for the torrada and you might want to forego that hairspray for the night.

(Pictures above taken by me January 2011)

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Winter Solstice

winter-solstice-2016

Today, December 21st 2016, marks this years Winter Solstice. In Mallorca, the longest night is a very rainy one and I’m looking forward to the days getting longer, the sun climbing higher in the sky.

I did a little investigating. What exactly IS this solstice stuff and what I found was pretty interesting. It’s a time for new growth and renewal. Time of letting go, releasing old patterns, rekindling hope, welcoming the light, seeking new inspiration and beginning a new cycle.

Take the day or the rest of the days of December to acknowledge what you need to let go of, how would you like to grow in the coming year, how do you want to live in the coming year. Not easy questions. I will do some soul searching myself. Happy Winter Solstice.

image credit Susan Seddon Boulet

Spanish Navidad

Spain is a lovely place to enjoy the holiday season, with events and celebrations starting early December and going through mid January. Children typically only get a small gift on Christmas Day because they receive the majority of their presents on January 6th – Three Kings Day (Los Reyes). Christmas time is truly a special time of the year in Spain.

Here are some of my favorites from Spain.

The Belen (Nativity Scene) – You can always find a Belen in the bigger cities, some with a live Belen! And they can be very elaborate and beautiful.

And a bit of a strange tradition in Catalonia is the caganer (the crapper), where a defecating figure perched behind Mary and Joseph is said to symbolize fertilization, as well as bringing luck and prosperity for the year ahead.  The traditional figure is that of a young peasant from Catalonia, sporting a red cap and a pipe. But modern crappers represent public figures of the moment, from politicians to sporting heroes. Here is your Trump caganer that will probably be very popular this year.

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Next up is EL GORDO! You can get your lottery ticket pretty much almost anywhere. El Gordo (The Fat One) is a Spanish institution and the second oldest lottery in the world. The first Christmas lottery took place on 22nd December 1812 in Cádiz and the event has been taking place on the same day every year since.

It’s a bit complicated because so many people take part in the lottery, numbers are repeated up to 160 times. That means, if you win, you will most likely be sharing the prize with 159 others.

The night of the drawing is a drawn out affair lasting around three hours. The balls are drawn in a unique way befitting the unique lottery tradition, while the numbers are sung by the pupils of Madrid’s San Ildefonso school.

My next favorite Spanish fiesta is Three King’s Day (El Dia de los Reyes). If you remember the Three Kings are Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior and they bring the newborn Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The one thing that really bothers me is how the person who portrays Balthazar is a Spanish who is blackened up. There are many African people who live here, who I am sure would be quite honored to play the role of Balthazar.

There are many parades around Spain with the Three Kings throwing candy to the children. Here in Mallorca, the Three Kings arrive on boat. There is also the Roscón de Reyes which is a traditional cake (a bit fruitcake like) that families eat on the day. Careful though, there is a metal/plastic figurine inside it. Whoever gets it in their piece is crowned king or queen of the table. There’s also a bean inside the pastry and whoever gets it has to buy next year’s roscón.

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Good luck getting to be the king or queen of the party! Those are my favorites! What are some of your favorite holiday tradition where you live?

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El Día de los Reyes

Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio)
Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio)

The day for Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar to arrive is here! Children are anxiously awaiting all over Spain to see the Three Kings. Known in the Anglophone world as the Epiphany, the arrival of the Three Kings is defined in Spain by the enormous expectation and the tremendous annual celebrations that revolve around the event. Festivities officially start the evening before Epiphany, on the night of January 5, when the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Parade) takes place in every town and city, with hundreds upon hundreds of people crowding the main roads of the urban settlements in order to get a glimpse of the reenactment of the arrival of the Three Kings into town.

Here in Mallorca, the Three Kings arrive on boat and then proceed to join the parade (either on an elaborate float or on camels or horses) to throw candy to the children that line the streets. The children hopefully have been very good all year because this is the time they receive the most presents. Santa is definitely number two in popularity in Spain. But if the children have been bad they receive a bag of black coal, (usually a lump of hard sugar candy dyed black, called Carbón Dulce).

If you haven’t realized it yet, the Three Kings are the Three Wise Men who traveled by night all the way from the farthest confines of the Earth to bring gifts to Jesus, whom they recognized as the Son of God. The two days remain a beloved tradition, the night before when the Kings arrive and January 6, the day of the Epiphany.

It is a special time here in Spain! But sadly, it is also the end of Christmas.

Til next time!