For the first time in my life I spent the holidays away from home and my family. I was braced for a spin into holiday depression as all of the familiar would be on a totally different continent, but was pleased to experience something new with each moment.
While Christmas was spent in Dubai with my cousin and an amazing buffet, I rang in the new year in Spain with a new host family.
We had an intimate family party at home, with amazing seafood (a new common occurrence in my life). The daughter here is a big fan of chocolate, so we eat it almost every day, but I have no complaints! At the stroke of midnight we rang in the new year with the countdown on tv and eating 12 grapes. Each television host, with shots of the celebrating crowd, and my fellow party goers ate 12 grapes with each ding of the midnight clock. The 12 grapes signify the bringing of luck for each of the 12 months of the coming year. It was a bit difficult eating so many grapes so quickly, especially after I began laughing! It was the first time my hosts family’s daughter made it to midnight for the New Year (she is 4), so we had a fun time eating our first grapes together!
Spain celebrates on the 6th of January the Epiphany. We called it the day of the Three Magic Kings. This day was like having a second Christmas because while my family back in the states celebrates the Nativity, the birth of Christ and everyone celebrates Santa all rolled into December the 25th, in Spain they split the celebrating into two days. “Papa Noel” was celebrated on December the 25th, bringing presents to the children. It was not nearly the over-the-top gift-giving that we are accustomed to in the states. The Day of the Three Magic Kings is a bigger day for gifts, but even still each child I spent the day with only received one gift from each set of relatives, so still very simple.
The evening before we went into the center of town to watch a parade of the passing kings. This felt very festive and familiar like the lights parade in Lodi that my family enjoys. Each King had his own float and waved to spectators as their helpers threw candy.
The three kings celebrate the three kings or wise men that came to visit baby Jesus and bring gifts. Children even know and call to the kings on their floats by name!
We went home to prepare for the arrival of the kings by setting out plates with cookies, drinks and a bowl of water for their camels outside. In the morning we found the cookies and drinks had been consumed and the water bowl was splashed all around! Presents were left by the tree near our plates.