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Irene Serrano Lopez

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Traditions for celebrating a Spanish New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is a big event in every part of the world and each region has its own traditions that make it unique and special. Of course, in Spain we have our own too. Being with your loved ones Most people celebrate New Year’s Eve at home with their families. However, if they live far away from home, they celebrate New Year’s Eve with their friends. After midnight we toast with champagne and in some homes kids toast with “champín” which is a special champagne with no alcohol. 12 grapes The best-known tradition is eating 12 grapes. The last 12 seconds before the beginning of a new year, we eat 12 grapes following the sound of the bell of the Plaza del Sol (The Sun’s Square), in Madrid. This is the most famous bell in Spain. That’s why lots of people welcome the New Year at the square although most people normally follow the chimes on the TV. [caption id="attachment_1400" align="aligncenter" width="259"]The 12 grapes The 12 grapes[/caption] Starting the New Year with the right foot While eating the 12 grapes some superstitious people keep only their right foot on the floor. That way they will start the first day of the year with good luck. Practicing the 12 chimes In some big cities like Salamanca and, definitely, in Madrid, they verify that their bell works well before New Year’s Eve. Many people gather together to practice eating the 12 grapes in 12 seconds. However it is said that if you eat the 12 grapes before December 31 at midnight it gives you bad luck, so people practice with olives, jelly beans or chocolates. [caption id="attachment_1401" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Conguitos - Spanish version of M&Ms Conguitos - Spanish version of M&Ms[/caption] Eating lentils? Some people eat a teaspoon or a plate of lentils at midnight or on December 31st or January 1st for lunch. This is a symbol of the abundance, prosperity and economy throughout the year. Red underwear Another tradition is to wear red underwear because it will bring you a great year of love. Besides, it’s a day for dressing up because many people go to a cotillón after or before midnight. A cotillón is a party where people dance, eat and have fun all night long. Some people wear masquerades and other special costumes. In fact in many small towns people like to dress up. Fireworks We don’t have a firework show as big as people have in the States or in other places of the world. But we like fireworks too so some people buy them and shoot them off. Churros January 1st after partying all night long, we eat some churros as breakfast before going to bed. But don’t be too excited, only some breakfast bars and churros kiosks are open because the January 1st is a state holiday and stores are closed. [caption id="attachment_1402" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Churros con Chocolate Churros con Chocolate[/caption] We don’t have the typical American kiss welcoming the New Year but we kiss all our beloved in the cheek to wish them good luck for the coming year.

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Most important events in Spain

The Three Kings Parade (January 5-6) Spanish people love Santa Claus but they love even more the Three Wise Men who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. This is a great day for little kids, and not so little. That’s why we have a huge parade with kids throwing candies and other gifts. There is a parade in the main cities and neighborhoods on January 5 and 6. Carnaval (February - flexible date) This festival has a different duration depending on the city. It is an event  in which people dress up (as funny things, characters…) in most places. In Cádiz, people walk around the city to hear original songs sung by different groups too and a contest is held in the Falla theater. In the Canary Islands and Badajoz, as well as in some other countries of Latin America, the festival is called “murgas”. There is another type of Carnaval in Las Palmas (a huge one) in which they choose the Queen of the Carnival and there is a drag contest too . Semana Santa (or Holy Week) (March - flexible date) There is not an exact day for the beginning of Holy Week or Semana Santa: it depends on the moon. Semana Santa begins the first Sunday of March when there’s a full moon. It is a huge event for lots of Spanish people but it might change depending on the region. Find everything you need to know in the post  and in “Semana santa: Seville’s biggest holidays”:

  1. http://servicesabroad.com/studentblog/?postId=1345/experiencing-semana-santa-with-your-5-senses
  2. http://servicesabroad.com/studentblog/?postId=1260/semana-santa-sevillas-biggest-holidays
  Las Fallas de Valencia (March 15-19) Artists work really hard on building colossal statues made of paper, cardboard, wood or cork. From the 15th to the 19th of March, there are lots of people in the streets wearing traditional costumes, eating sweets, and there are sculptures that can be visited outside and inside. Las Fallas starts with the “Crida” the last Sunday of February in which the Fallera Mayor (the ambassador of this festivity) calls all the population of the city. A contest is held the last day of the festivity and then all of the artwork is burned at night. You can also find the "mascletàs" that are held from at 2PM and consist of a huge pyrotechnic show. The fire is the essence of the party, it purifies the vices and evils of society and a new cycle begins. It is a renewal from the ashes, the beginning of spring. pic3 (1) Feria de Sevilla (April-May - Flexible) We have a lot of ferias (fairs) in Spain and in different dates. However, the one in Sevilla is the main reference. Here you have everything you need to know about the Feria of Sevilla: “Vocabulary to enjoy the Feria de Abril as a true sevillano”
  1. http://servicesabroad.com/studentblog/?postId=1352/vocabulary-to-enjoy-the-feria-de-abril-as-a-true-sevillano
“A bailar a bailar alegre sevillanas”
  1. http://servicesabroad.com/studentblog/?postId=1268/feria-a-bailar-a-bailar-alegres-sevillanas
  Fiesta de las Cruces (May - Flexible date depending on the city/village) The “Cruces de mayo” (May Crosses) is a Christian event takes place in May because it is the Virgin and the flower’s month. Depending on the city, it is celebrated during the first week of May, every weekend or both. Córdoba is really famous for its “Cruces de mayo” because every square is fully decorated with flowers and a cross in the middle (decorated with flowers too). Some people wear flamenco dresses in some villages. Córdoba also holds contests for the best decorated square. La noche de San Juan (June 23) It’s summer! and in many places of the world we celebrate this festivity. Many Spaniards spend the night at the beach, with huge bonfires and fireworks. It welcomes the summer and originally it was celebrated on the 21th, but because of St. John the Baptist we celebrate it on the 23th. pic9 San Fermín (July 7) It starts with the “chupinazo” from the balcony of the City Hall of Pamplona on July 6 at noon and it ends at 12 AM on July 15 with the song “Pobre de mí...” (Poor me), which is a farewell song. One of the most famous activities of the Sanfermines is the “encierro”, which consists of running through a route of 849 meters in front of the bulls to lead the bulls into the bullring. Each “encierro” normally lasts an average of 3 minutes. After that, all day long consists of eating and having fun with friends. There are open air music and dance. Fun fact: the famous film “Knight and Day” (starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) placed this event in Sevilla and Cádiz. However the event takes place in Pamplona (Navarra) only. La Tomatina (August flexible) La Tomatina takes place in the Valencian municipality of Buñol (Valencia). It is always celebrated on the last Wednesday of August. The participants throw tons and tons of tomatoes (that are not edibles) at each other. La Mercè (September 24) La Mercè is the one of the biggest festivity in Barcelona. It is celebrated in honor of La Virgen de la Merced (Mercy’s Virgin). There are parades, a meeting of giants from all over Catalonia, a contest of castells (human towers) and Sardana dancing (typical dance from Catalonia). There is also a wine fair, the correfoc (people running and dancing with fireworks wearing demon’s costumes), a marathon and the "Piromusical" (fireworks and lights accompanied with music all over the Montjuïc). Día de la Hispanidad - Fiesta Nacional de España (October 12) This is the national day of Spain. The celebration traditionally includes a military parade attended by the King, along with the Royal Family, the President of the Government and other high representatives of all the powers of the State. October 12 is celebrated in Zaragoza too with Fiesta del Pilar (local festivity). pic6 Día de todos los santos (November 1) This day (All Saints’ Day) many people visit the graves of their deceased and they pray for those who left. We do the same thing the 2nd November and it is called the “Deceased’s day”. On the other hand, the night of Halloween is celebrated on Oct. 31 (1 night only) and is more and more popular in Spain. The Constitution Day (December 6) This is the day that our constitution was signed after several years of dictatorship and a process of transition. Two days after this day, we celebrate the day of the Immaculate Conception. Although Catholic in its origins, this festivity remains as one of the official State holidays and there are events in some cities like Sevilla. In this city the Tunos go around the city singing and glorifying the Virgin.

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What you need to know about Spanish filmography

Traditionally the Spanish movies had the Spanish folklore as the main theme. So when we search for ancient films we find stories based on a little boy or girl who sings and dances flamenco. By watching old Spanish movies, you perfectly feel how that time was and how my grandparents felt. [caption id="attachment_1370" align="aligncenter" width="197"]Marisol Marisol[/caption] But Spanish filmography has evolved and it has become more international. It is clearly shown in movies like “Regression” by Alejandro Amenábar, “El laberinto del fauno” by Guillermo del Toro, or “Volver” by Pedro Almodovar. Maybe those names are familiar to you because some of our directors are internationally known. You can also enjoy the international Spanish movies in your own language like “Lo imposible” by Juan Antonio Bayona, or even improve your Spanish listening skills by watching films such as “Grupo 7” by Alberto Rodríguez, a good example for practising the Andalusian accent. [caption id="attachment_1371" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Lo Imposible, by J. A. Bayona Lo Imposible, by J. A. Bayona[/caption] However, Spanish directors haven’t abandoned the traditional part. We love our culture and our differences too. But we love mocking ourselves even more. That’s why we enjoy movies such as “Ocho apellidos vascos” by Emilio Martínez-Lázaro (this one is the highest-grossing movie of all time in Spain) or “Señor, dame paciencia” by Álvaro Díaz Lorenzo. As you might know, Spanish people have diverse ways of thinking, diverse traditions and (it is said too) different personalities depending on each region and these two films are inspired in Spanish stereotypes taking it to the extreme. [caption id="attachment_1372" align="aligncenter" width="300"]8 Apellidos Vascos by Emilio Martinez-Lázaro 8 Apellidos Vascos by Emilio Martinez-Lázaro[/caption] Spanish TV series have become great too. They are equally divided into: one third of thrillers (“Mar de plástico”), one third of comedy (“La que se avecina”), and one third based on true stories of the Spanish Civil War (“Amar en tiempos revueltos”) or Spanish history, even though they might add some fictional elements (“El ministerio del tiempo”). Millennials, like me, have learnt a lot watching these historical series with their grandparents, who enjoy telling their anecdotes about those times. [caption id="attachment_1373" align="aligncenter" width="300"]La que se avecina La que se avecina[/caption] You can practice your Spanish and learn more about our culture, history and sense of humor watching some of these TV series: La casa de papel, Tiempos de Guerra, Ella es tu padre, Los Serrano, La española inglesa, Lo que escondían sus ojos, El internado… [caption id="attachment_1372" align="aligncenter" width="300"]La española inglesa La española inglesa[/caption] I encourage you to choose one and start watching it in spanish (with subtitles if you need it) and, if you are brave enough, turn on the TV or join your host family and watch it completely in Spanish…Why not?

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