Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘fiesta’

Seville | Spanish Lifestyle

1-IMG_20140216_133811street life in Seville

Although the notion of a Spanish national character can easily be overdone, there are some cultural biases that people from the English-speaking countries will probably pick up on. The Spanish are generally ebullient, noisy and outward going, with a smaller personal space than you’re used to, and this combination can make them seem a bit “in-your-face”, especially given a widespread lack of foreign language skills (the Swiss and the Belgians can look smug at this point; the Brits and the Americans should probably keep quiet). But really, they’re by and large friendly and hospitable.

Timetables. Partly as a product of climate, and partly because Spanish clocks are an hour out of kilter, everything happens later in the day than you’re used to. A lot of people don’t start work until 10, lunch starts at 2 not 12, and carries on through siesta until 5. Then everything opens up again until 8 or 9. Dinner (usually tapas if you’re eating out) is after that, and may carry on until midnight, especially in summer. In school holidays and at weekends you’ll also see lots of quite young children out and about at this time.

There’s a good reason why “siesta” is the most widely understood Spanish word in the non-Spanish speaking world – it’s just such a good idea. Although a long afternoon break is anathema to the corporatist work ethic of much of Northern Europe and America, it actually conforms to the natural rhythm of the human body. And in the days before aircon, or if you’re working outside, what else could you be doing in the heat of the summer sun? It also allows you to stay up late and get up early.

jamonjamón Ibérico de Bellota

When it comes to eating out the hustle, bustle and sociability of the tapeo is an essential part of Spanish culture in general, and Sevillano culture in particular. Despite the buzz, it’s essence is laid back and informal, with lots of sharing and conversation, and at the end of the evening, lots of lingering over a final drink. People often go from bar to bar, but no one ever tries to move you on to clear the tables for the next shift. Visitors often remark on how civilised this way of eating and drinking feels.

Before the tapeo, if work schedule and weather permit, is the paseo, the evening stroll. The Spanish live outside more than their northern counterparts, and on a warm spring or autumn evening what could be finer than a walk out of doors and perhaps a bit of window-shopping?

arenal (2)Bullfighting is still very popular in most of Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. They still kill the bull, and the ritual and symbolism are part of every Spaniard’s repertoire, even if they’ve never been to a bullfight. These days the social, see and be seen, aspects of attending a bullfight are as important as the fight itself (unless you’re a bull).

Religious processions are very popular throughout Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. Although strict religious belief and observance are in decline, Spain is still very much a Catholic country, and in Seville participants prepare all year for major events such as Semana Santa (Holy Week) which still draws huge crowds.

Even if (unfairly) the Spanish, especially in southern Spain, don’t have a reputation for working hard, they do have a reputation for knowing how to party. Every locality has its annual fair where they dress up in flamenco costume, dance the night away and drink lots of rebujito (a cocktail of sherry and 7up). In Seville the Feria is in April.feria flamenco dresses

All this, of course, just scratches the surface, and if you want to find out more about why so many people love Spain and its relaxed lifestyle, you need to come and stay in one of our holiday apartments and experience it for yourself.

The Bonfires of Saint John

Next week, on the night of Monday 23rd June, the shortest night of the year, towns along the coast of Spain will be celebrating La Noche de San Juan, Saint John’s Night, the eve of Saint John’s Day. Despite the name, it is, of course, an essentially pagan festival marking the passing of the summer solstice, and is a time for rituals of purification, renewal, and the assurance of good fortune for the coming year.

bonfires la corunaLa Coruña – photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Preparations for the festivities may go on for several days beforehand, particularly the building of the bonfires that give them their popular name, Las Hogueras, or the bonfires of Saint John. These are traditionally made on the beach, mostly of driftwood, but including old furniture, or indeed, anything else that you want to ritually dispose of. They are lit at dusk and often kept burning until dawn, and from a distance the sight can be both impressive and a little eerie. It’s also common to burn an effigy of Judas Iscariot, a Christian touch added to the original, and in Alicante satirical models of local figures that are specially made for the occasion and paraded around the streets before being added to the pyres (although influenced by it, this is not to be confused with the Valencian fallas festival in March). As with all such celebrations (especially in Spain), this is the time for families and groups of friends to gather round the flames, sharing food, drink and the communal spirit.

When the fires have burned down sufficiently, you are supposed to jump over them three times. This is said to purify and cleanse you, and to burn away all your problems, but if bonfire-jumping seems too risky, don’t worry, there are other ways to achieve the same effect. Women can prepare perfumed water, made with the scents of seven plants, including roses, rosemary and laurel, for washing or bathing. Most common is to take a dip in the sea at midnight, washing away your cares and making a new start for the new year. In many places it’s considered to be bad luck to bathe in the sea before Saint John’s Eve, and in a climate like Spain’s this may be why people are so enthusiastic about this particular ritual!

San-Juan-festival-in-MalagaMalaga – photo courtesy of The Guardian

One of the biggest Saint John’s Night parties is in Malaga, and thousands of people will spend the day preparing the bonfires, and everything else you need for an all-night beach party. If you’re in town it’s an unmissable experience, especially after midnight when the serious revellers get going in earnest, singing and dancing in the dying light of the fires. You may even end up sleeping out under the stars, but if not, you have a comfortable apartment to go back to.

In some parts of Spain it is customary for to go to sleep on St. John’s Eve with three potatoes under your pillow – one peeled, one half-peeled and the other unpeeled. When you wake up take one of them out without looking. If it’s peeled, you’ll have money problems, half-peeled signifies a year of ups and downs, and unpeeled means a year of prosperity and good health. No cheating now.