Thursday, January 25, 2018

Feliz Navidad in southern Spain

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, a become a child again at Christmastime.
--Laura Ingalls Wilder

Christmas is the day when all time stands together.
--Alexander Smith

Malaga, Spain--the city of lights at Christmastime

Southern Spain is a perfect place for the Christmas holidays. I wanted the Christmas spirit and my husband wanted warmth. Andalucia or the Iberian coast in southern Spain was the perfect combination. The days are sunny, with wafts of orange zest and a salty ocean air blowing through the city. Orange trees are practically exploding with fruit. But they are the decorative kind--definitely not to eat. Almost every street, house, and park is lined with orange trees, about to topple over because of the heavy branches of fruit on them. But freshly squeezed orange juice is everywhere for the taker in many vendors. You can make your own in many grocery stores.

Malaga, the largest city in southern Spain on the "Sun Coast," displays one of the most lit up cities in Europe. On the Plaza de Las Flores, there were over 600,000 lights that lit up the streets, with the Cathedral of Malaga majestically looking over the festivities. The city is also known for the Tree Kings procession on January 5 when the Three Wise Men wander all over the villages and cities to give candy to the children. But many cities and villages all over Spain greet the Three Kings that day--giving the children their anticipated gifts.

The Christmas tradition in Spain I will always remember are the nativity scenes everywhere. The scenes could be found prominently in store windows, in churches, in yards, town halls, government buildings, and homes. Multi-generational families wander the streets to look at the lights, but to also view the creches that abounded everywhere. The largest and most grand nativity scenes could be found in the government buildings and cathedrals. The detailed scenes of the New Testament were spread out like a passion play. Every age group was memorized at the meticulous craftsmanship that brought the Christmas story to life. I was told that in almost all Spanish homes there are a few figurines in a nativity set. In some homes at the end of Christmas, the nativity scene can take over the living room.

Take me back....

A child looks on with wonder and awe at the large nativity scene at the Malaga Cathedral.

A scene of the carpenter's son in the sprawling nativity scene.

More nativity scenes. Notice the gifts that the Wise Men are giving.

King Herod and the Roman soldiers

A village scene in the large nativity scene in the Town Hall in Malaga.
A village scene in Nazareth in the Town Hall nativity scene. The detail was wondrous. People hoovered and gazed for a long time at the scenes that spread panaramically before us.

At the Cathedral in Malaga--one scene of the Wiseman coming to Bethlehem

More village scenes in Nazareth and Bethlehem

A Spanish nativity scene, complete with Mary in a flamenco dress

More store windows

Looking into a nativity scene that was about 150 years old that was in a jewelry store window.

A toy store window with a childlike navitiy scene.

People gathering to the see the nativity scene near a government building.

A realty office with their nativity scene

Another store window.

A gorgeous Christmas quilt hanging in a store window. 

Malaga, a city known for the Three King's procession. The lit up display was on the hill near the ramparts.

Oranges everywhere, whether they were on the trees or branches that had been pruned.
A few days after Christmas the workers beginning to cut down the bulging branches of oranges.

A tree near the Plaza de Flores in Malaga where people write down their wishes for Christmas and the new year.

Some Christmas wishes on the tree....

Children speaking to the Three Kings in Seville.

One of the things I love about Spaniards is their sense of fun and unselfconsciousness. Many of them were dancing and singing in front of the ancient Roman amphitheater in Malaga.

Spanish flags line many of the balconies and wave on the windows at Christmastime. A street in Savilla, Spain

I loved this sign at a cafe at the top of the ramparts in Malaga. I thought it represented well the Spanish people that I observed and met. They just wanted to talk and be with one another

Chocolate, pastries, patellas, fish, oranges abounded in Andalucia. But of course, we had to bring our own traditional Christmas pastry--flying all the way from Doha to Morocco to Spain. It is called vinarterta--shortbread layered with jam.

Paiella--the comfort food of Spain. Vibrant, nourishing, and a traditional recipe of Spain for centuries. Risotto Rice, mixed with vegetables or meat of some kind. This one is a seafood version.
Recipe for seafood paella

Lots of music on the streets--a high school band in Savilla, Spain playing Christmas songs.

A child telling her wish to the one of the wisemen.

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