Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas in Madrid

Today was an important day in Spain -- the drawing for the Christmas lottery (el sorteo de Navidad). I never bother buying a ticket, since the biggest prize -- El Gordo -- never seems to hit Madrid. There are people who buy tickets from other towns and cities in Spain when they go on holiday, but at 20 euros a pop (and that only gives you the right to 10% of a winning prize), it seems like a waste of money to me. So the only part of the Spanish Christmas lottery I can take part in is watching the schoolchildren who are chosen to announce the winning numbers on TV, a strange tradition in which young boys in suit jackets and shorts sing out the numbers in a falsetto voice.

Another big Christmas tradition here, it seems, is buying things at El Corte Ingles, which is Spain's only department store. It's almost impossible to walk around the center of Madrid and find a single person who doesn't have a gold-colored shopping bag from El Corte Ingles. Fortunately, a friend of mine gave me a gift from the store, so I managed to acquire a gold shopping bag without having to deal with crowds of last-minute Christmas shoppers.

When I first came to Spain, in 2002, Christmas still wasn't that important, at least as a shopping and gift-giving holiday. The 6th of January (los Reyes) was always the big day for giving gifts. But that gave kids only one day to play with their new toys before going back to school on the 7th. So Spanish parents started giving kids gifts on Christmas instead -- or, rather, in addition. Now kids get presents on both Christmas and 3 Kings Day. More traditional adults still stick to January for exchanging presents, but I imagine that will change pretty soon. Madrid is now full of Christmas trees and Santa Clauses, something I didn't see much of when I first came.

In addition to Christmas, many Spanish kids now celebrate Halloween at school and people of all ages dress up to go to parties... Valentine's Day is becoming more and more popular... Perhaps next year the people in Spain will start eating turkey towards the end of November...

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