The Christmas holidays began in earnest today, December 22, with the El Gordo lottery, the biggest lottery in the world. I didn't win anything, but participating is half the fun. Honest.
At 3 p.m. today, "Operation Exit" began as people hit the highways to visit their relatives and home towns for the holidays. Traffic backed up, but at least the weather was good.
Like quite a few people, though, I will remain in Madrid, and there will be plenty to do: light shows, theater, decorated streets, concerts, children's activities, fireworks Saturday night -- and Nativity scenes in churches and convents, museums, plazas, schools (this is a little controversial), store windows, homes, the shark tank at the zoo, and live portrayals by the inhabitants of some small towns. The city has published a list of the most traditional, monumental, or artistic Nativities. I hope to visit the ones at the Royal Palace made by outstanding sculptors, and perhaps the one at a shopping center made of 80,000 balloons.
The King will make his annual address on Christmas Eve, carried by all television and radio stations. Traditionally, families eat late evening meal on Christmas eve, then go to midnight Mass -- known as the Rooster Mass (Misa de Gallo) for reasons no one can recall. The next day many people go for a walk in Retiro Park. The weather should be in the low 40sF/about 6C, and sunny.
Santa Claus -- Papa Noel -- is not traditional in Spain. Gifts are brought by the Three Kings. However, because children have a two-week vacation, in some households Santa will drop by to deliver a toy or two to help keep the kids busy.
I will have a quiet Christmas at home with my husband, and we'll phone back home to greet our snow-bound relatives in the 'States. We'll have a traditional Christmas meal of roast lamb, red cabbage, and sweet almond soup for dessert. Some expatriate and Spanish friends who will be remain in town for the holidays will be getting together over the coming days to celebrate. The holidays do not end until Three Kings Day, January 6, so we'll have lots of time.