Friday, 2 January 2009

A Catalan New Year

So here we are, having swopped the dry and freezing New Year in the UK for a milder but damper one in Barcelona.

Coming to Catalonia, like most parts of Spain, always requires a bit more of an adjustment than most other European destinations, particularly when it comes to your body clock. The one hour time difference is more than compounded by the siesta and the habit of eating and drinking late - very, very late. Most establishments don’t open before 9pm, and remain eerily quiet until 10.30pm. But on New Year’s Eve, the bars stay resolutely closed until 1am, to allow the staff to see in the New Year at home before continuing their celebrations in a more public space.

The Spanish New Year seem to have two main aspects. The first of these is eating grapes: twelve grapes, to be exact. These are quaffed, one at a time, to the chimes of the clock in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, broadcast on every TV and radio channel. It’s quite a challenge: the chimes come quite quickly, and Spanish grapes have pips so, unless you have already de-seeded them, or bought the expensive little tins of pre-prepared grapes, you’re going to have to spit pretty quickly too. Inevitably, people end up giggling with mouths dribbling full of grapes they can’t quite stuff in fast enough.

The second element is Spanish television. In recent years, this has improved, in ways which any Brit over 40 can understand: the cheesy celebrities of yesteryear (think Val Doonican, only Spanish, and worse), have largely bitten the dust - some of them literally so, I suspect. Instead, there’s a more mixed entertainment of music, comedy and reviews of the past year. As you wend your way to a bar, you can hear a medley of different channels wafting from each balcony.

Feliz Año Neuvo!

No comments: