Christmas for me has always been white and cold, peaceful and quiet, intimate and family oriented. But then I fell in love with a boy from the south of Spain and got to know a different kind of Christmas. Still European, not hot and sunny, but a totally different celebration in a totally different atmosphere. Cultural shock at its best, as they teach in university. I found myself in El Puerto de Santa María, in Cádiz, Andalusia, celebrating the holidays with A’s family, where Christmas is neither white nor quiet. It’s still cold to some extent, and very much family oriented, but family has a much wider meaning in the south of Spain. We essentially do the same: eat, drink, sing and gather with our loved ones, but the songs are merrier, the rhythm is sparkier, the instruments are different.
A typical celebration is a gathering to sing and dance together, called the “zambomba”, which is also the instrument, a friction drum, used to accompany Christmas carols. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, many “zambombas” are organised across Andalusia, Jerez being one of the most famous places of all. People gather in family circles or on the main square, eat and drink, sing together, playing the zambomba, playing the guitar, accompanied by clapping, making it all a flamenco event at the same time.
Shocking experience listening to “La virgen gitana“, an example of a Spanish Christmas carol, for someone who grew up listening to Hungarian Christmas carols, like “Pásztorok, pásztorok“.
The point is the same everywhere though: being together, sharing and cherishing moments of life. Lucky us, who have food, a roof above our heads, central heating, running water and jobs to provide for ourselves.
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