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Expat Christmas

lucesBeing an expat living in Spain means I'm experiencing almost no build up to Christmas - and I like that.  It takes a chunk out of the commercialism and leaves just your chosen favourite traditions.  For us this means, from December the first, munching through a small mountain of mince pies, the home-spun advent calandar making its appearance and the screeching of recorders as the small ones practise for a school show.  As the day approaches we prepare for Father Christmas, generally with plenty of threats to the kids that 'he can see what you are up to, you know!'  A few decorations are dangled about for the cats to dislodge and play footsie with around the house.  But with the children rarely in winter coats and blue skies lighting up our days it just doesn't feel much like Christmas is coming.

The Spanish do celebrate through religion, street decorations, christmas songs, street markets with live animals and nativity scenes called Belénes. Christmas is less about shopping and more about family - as it should be.  The festivities begin on the 8th December for the feast of the Immaculate Conception with a public holiday so the towns are pretty much closed (along with the 6th being Constitution Day). The main gathering in homes around the country is on the Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) when a spectacular many-coursed meal is served into the early hours and nougat candy called turrón is handed around.  Gifts are given on the 6th January by the Three Kings.  It is on the eve of this day that locals hit the streets to see the Wise Men parading through the towns onP1020647 horseback or cartoon style floats throwing bundles of sweets to the crowds.  Children in our multi-cultural part of Spain seem to be gaining by both traditions - first being visited by Father Christmas and then Los Reyes Magos!

We do take a peak at some local festivities but also enjoy being holded up at home. With internet shopping so the 'mode' and family far away, the hype - and the stress - passes us by.  Of course we ensure our kids have a very special Christmas Day wherever we are.

P1010234A couple of years ago we went to a local beach where many expats gather, Santa hats on heads and bubbly in hands - and bravely launched ourselves into the surf under the white winter sun.  Traditional lunch was by the pool in short sleeves with lemon in the grown-ups gin and tonics picked fresh from the tree.

Last year we did the family assault course in the UK after being first trapped out of the country, and later almost trapped in it, by the snow.  I returned to spend my Christmas money at the chiropractors from sleeping on an imbalanced camp bed.  Memories of that have lead us to take a new tack this year! 

We will celebrate the Nochebuena in Madrid (where we've just realised most restaurants will be shut as the family reunions ensue) and after Santa's stockings (he's very good at keeping up with our movements!) we will have our post-lunch snooze in the air, while the kids play mindlessly at their new gadgets as we wing our way to Sri Lanka...where our adventures will really begin.  Wishing you a Merry Christmas wherever you are!