On Christmas Eve, as the stars come out, tiny oil lamps are lit in every house, and after Midnight Mass and Christmas.
Children think of the Los Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men) as the gift bearers. Tradition has it that they arrive on January 6th, the date the Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus.
Shoes are filled with straw or barley for the tired camels that must carry their riders through the busy night. By morning the camel food is gone and in place of the straw or barley are presents. Shoes also may be placed on balconies on the night of the 6th January in the hope that the Wise Men will fill them with gifts.
Most homes have a manger, like cathedrals and churches. These are complete with carved figures.
During the weeks before Christmas, families gather around their manger to sing, whilst children play tambourines and dance.
The Spanish especially honor the cow at Christmas because it is thought that when Mary gave birth to Jesus the cow in the stable breathed on the Baby Jesus to keep him warm.
Christmas is a deeply religious holiday in Spain.
The country's patron saint is the Virgin Mary and the Christmas season officially begins December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is celebrated each year in front of the great Gothic cathedral in Seville with a ceremony called los Seises or the "dance of six." Oddly, the elaborate ritual dance is now performed by not six but ten elaborately costumed boys. It is a series of precise movements and gestures and is said to be quite moving and beautiful.
Seises Catedral Sevilla Corpus
Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena or "the Good Night." It is a time for family members to gather together to rejoice and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present in nearly every home. A traditional Christmas treat is turron, a kind of almond candy.
December 28 is the feast of the Holy Innocents. Young boys of a town or village light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders townspeople to perform civic chores such as sweeping the streets. Refusal to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration.
The children of Spain receive gifts on the feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6). The Magi are particularly revered in Spain. It is believed that they travel through the countryside reenacting their journey to Bethlehem every year at this time. Children leave their shoes on the windowsills and fill them with straw, carrots, and barley or the horses of the Wise Men. Their favorite is Balthazar who rides a donkey and is the one believed to leave the gifts.
The Spanish Christmas is Navidad, people go to church, exchange presents, and many play on swing sets set up especially for the occasion. Swinging at solstice time evokes an ancient desire to encourage the sun, urging it to "swing" ever higher in the sky.
1. Combine almonds, sugar and honey in large saucepan.
2. Set pan over very low heat.
3. Cook until sugar dissolves and bring to boil.
4. Cook three minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Remove from heat and stir in marzipan.
6. Beat thoroughly till smooth.
7. Spoon into well-greased pan 15cm by 23cm.
8. Mark into 4cm squares.
Basically, different combinations of entire or minced almonds and honey.
Carpaccio Of Salmon And Cod With Citrus Fruits
This is a light starter which won’t fail to impress your guests as the colour of the fish is stunning with the citrus fruits.
Serves 6-8 Prep time: 25 minutes, plus up to 2 hours for marinating
Cooking time: 15 minutes
100g very fresh salmon fillet
100g very fresh cod fillet
1 lemon (juice only)
1 lime (juice only)
1 orange (Juice only)
small bunch chives (chopped)
2 thsp caster sugar
5 thsp olive oil
Brown bread or brioche to serve
Salt and pepper
1. Slice the salmon and cod into very thin pieces across the grain of the fish. Each fragile slice should be abut 6cm in length. Place the strips on a flat dish.
2. Squeeze the juice out of all of the citrus fruits and put into a food processor with the dill, parsley, chives, raspberries, sugar arid olive oil. Blend the mixture together for 10 seconds to Form a marinade.
3. Pour three quarters of the marinade over the sliced fish and place in lhe fridge for between half an hour and 2 hours. The acidic citrus juices in the marinade ‘cook’ the fish slightly so that it turns opaque and is ready to eat.
4. Remove the fish from the Iridge 10 minutes before serving. Spoon the remaining marinade over and serve with toasted brown bread or brioche.
Serves 6-8 Prep time: 25 minutes, plus up to 2 hours for marinating.
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