Archive | January, 2012

La Cabalgata

7 Jan

¡Feliz dia de los tres Reyes! And Happy Three Kings Day to those of you who didn’t understand the first part! Well, technically it was yesterday – January 6 – but I couldn’t possibly have written yesterday because I was far too busy opening my presents, eating king cake and nursing my hangover from the mass amounts of sweets that were eaten at the Cabalgata.

So what, you may ask yourself, is a cabalgata?

The cabalgata could most easily be described as a parade held every 5th of January in honor of the Three Kings (or Three Wise Men as we would probably call it!). The most famous cabalgata takes place in Madrid, but there are parades of all sizes that take place all over the cities and pueblos of Spain. Here in Lucena, people spend months decorating floats that take to the streets, accompanied by bands and of course the Three Kings themselves – Baltazar, Melchor, and Gaspar -each with their own elaborate float. 

Keep in mind that these were the guys that brought gifts to baby Jesus, so they always bring gifts with them to throw out at the parade. Forgoing the traditional gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, modern day gifts usually include balls, stuffed animals and many many “caramelos” or sweets.

After a long night at the parade, the excited kids go home and eagerly await the arrival of the Kings the next day, being sure to leave out some cookies and snacks for the Kings and a little water for their camels too, of course. For most kids in Spain, January 6th is when they get their Christmas presents, although some now get gifts from santa on Christmas Day.

Another tradition that accompanies Three Kings Day is King Cake or rosca de reyes. This round cake usually comes with gifts hidden inside for the people who are lucky enough to get a slice with a gift. My gift this year? A little figurine of Maggie Simpson. Now that’s what I call lucky!

Today’s Word: Cabalgata (n.): Three Kings Parade; as in: “Hope you don’t get a cavity after eating all the sweets you caught at the cabalgata!”

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Happy New Year

1 Jan

“Feliz Navidad… and I hope you eat all grapes on new year!” one of my students told me on my last day of school as we left for Christmas vacation. (sidenote: look at how good their English is getting!)

In Spain, as well as many latin american countries, it would be unthinkable to ring in the new year without a mouthful of grapes. It’s a tradition that dates back to the 20th century, when creative Spanish harvesters came up with a clever way to get rid of their grape surplus. The tradition says that the best and luckiest way to end the year is by eating 12 grapes – one for each chime of the clock, which signifies each month of the past year.

Not wanting to tempt their fates, the tradition quickly caught on. Who doesn’t want a little luck on their side, anyway? So every New Year’s Eve, which in Spanish is called nochevieja (the old night), crowds gather in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol to watch the ball drop. (Think Time’s Square with older buildings and a lot less lights!) And all across the rest of the country people gather around their televisions to watch the very same event.

But first their attention is directed to the bell tower, where the clock shows the official hour for the country. As the year ends, the bell begins to ring and people begin to stuff – taking care to eat exactly 12 grapes because eating 10 or 13 would have the reverse effect.

While this task may seem daunting for a novice, the clock chimes are actually slowed down a bit to ensure that everyone can end the year with a lucky stroke and then wash it down with a nice glass of champagne after.

Sadly, following the traditions of the Cincinnati bar scene, I’ll have to tell my student that I ate not one grape this year. Things are not looking so good for me on the luck front, I guess. But I have 365 days to practice my grape eating for next year!

Feliz Año Nuevo a todos!

Today’s Word: la uva (n.): grape; as in: ” Be careful not to choke on one of your uvas this New Year’s Eve!”