Thanks to José García Sánchez in the Secondary MFL Matters Facebook group for this lovely infographic/ map of European present givers. Whilst Christmas is past for most, Spain and those who follow the Orthodox calendar have another day or so before they receive their gifts on 6th January or Epiphany. I’ll certainly be thinking of activities to use this next year, perhaps preparing comprehension questions based around practising name of countries and / or nationalities but I’ll also be using it as soon as we go back to school as a way of eking out one last activity from the array of Christmas cards and greetings we received as part of our eTwinning projects.
Below are some images of our cards, temporarily taking over the Achievement Tree!
For the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching a lovely young Spanish lady at one of my schools. She has Basque heritage and last year, when I put on the ‘villancicos’ whilst we carried out our Christmas activities she asked if we could listen to Ole Olentzero. I obliged and the class were fascinated by the costumes and the unfamiliar words.
This year, today in fact, she asked once more if we could listen to it. I’d forgotten about it to be honest until I started it, but the class recognised it immediately. Here it is:
I decided to do some research and discovered that “Olentzero is a character in the Basque Christmas tradition. According to Basque traditions Olentzero comes to town late at night on the 24th of December to drop off presents for children.” There are various explanations of the origins of the tradition. One has Olentzero as one of jentillak, a mythological race of giants that lived in the Pyrenees. Another suggests that a newborn baby was found in the woods by fairies, blessed with the name Olentzero as well as kindness and strength and gifted to a childless couple. He grew to be a strong man who was a charcoal burner and made wooden toys that he gifted to children, and is said to have died saving children from a burning house leading to the fairies granting him eternal life.
“Nowadays, Olentzero is depicted as a lovable character, widely attributed to being overweight, having a huge appetite and thirst. He is depicted as a Basque peasant wearing a Basque beret, a farmer’s attire with traditional abarketa shoes and smoking a pipe. Whether he has a beard or not is not yet an established tradition. Sometimes his face is stained with charcoal, as a sign of his trade as a charcoal-burner. On Christmas Eve, groups of people or children carry effigies of Olentzero around on a chair through the streets, singing Olentzero carols and collecting food or sweets. At the end, it is customary in some places to burn the Olentzero.”
You can find out more about how the legend/story has developed here and you find an English translation of the story here. There’s also a short presentation about Christmas in the Basque country on Slideplayer.
Finally I discovered that there’s an old Basque proverb : Anything, anyone with a name exists if we believe in its/his/her existence. I think that could apply to many Christmas traditions!
Next year I shall have to remember to play this song as N is moving to Australia next week; perhaps we’ll have to Skype her! I wish her well.
As the clock in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid strikes midnight, people across Spain will be attemptig to eat 12 grapes before the ‘bongs’ finish.
As OrangePolkaDot tells us, the supermarkets sell special packs of twelve grapes to help you suceed!
Why? This blog post suggests that it is may have been due to a good grape harvest in 1909 (as does this post) or perhaps the converse.
Whatever, my advice is – make sure you have seedless, small grapes as you’ll never make it otherwise! The first New Years Eve I spent at my in-laws was hilarious thanks to my mother in law buying grapes so that I could ‘do my grape thing’ but choosing big fat seeded ones! That was a fun experience – good job I have a big mouth ;o)
Here’s a clip of a family celebrating ‘los doce uvas de la suerte’ (note the Mum doesn’t quite manage the feat!)
I also like the other tradition that OrangePolkaDot highlights – wearing red undies. Sounds like a fun idea to me – but how ill anyone know if you’re ‘celebrating’? Unless Desigual are having another promotion…
Today is El Día de los Santos Inocentes in Spain and other Hispanic countries, their equivalent of April Fools Day. But it goes deeper than that as it has its roots in the story of Christmas when Herod ordered the killing of all baby boys, and Mary and Joseph escaped with Jesus having been warned in a dream to flee.
As we’re all taking down our Christmas decorations and enjoying the snow, (well, we are here having been granted a snow day!) in Spain and Mexico, children have been receiving their presents this morning, left for them by Los Reyes Magos.
So, to all of you, ¡Felices Reyes!
Here is a video of last year’s celebrations in Madrid. Enlightening and well worth using in class to show children what happens.
Here’s the start of an animated film from Mexico about Los Reyes Magos.