By our past UK standards we had a very busy Christmas, despite Galicia not feeling at all Christmassy. There is very little of the UK’s bloated festive commercialism here, instead it is a time for families, eating well and having the odd party (which last the entire night).
The main celebrations take place on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), New Years Eve (Nuevo Ano) and the evening of the 5th January (Los Reyes). Although Christmas day itself is a holiday there are no real celebrations as although Santa does visit, he leaves just a single small gift, with the major present giving courtesy of the three Kings on Epiphany.
We’d planned to be a bit Spanish, presents excepted, and have a slap-up dinner on Christmas Eve followed by a picnic on the beach (or in the car if it was too cold to sit out) on Christmas Day. Then in a lapse of concentration Amanda invited one of our Spanish friends, Dolores, to join us for Christmas Day lunch.
And then, of course, we’d no option but to go the whole hog and cook turkey with all the trimmings.
Despite a colossal Christmas shop (and not all of the expenditure on alcohol), we were still short of a few crucial ingredients. We’d got a turkey (thanks to Lidl), but were short of bread sauce and stuffing, but the biggest impeding disaster was an incomprehensible scarcity of sprouts.
The stuffing emergency was resolved thanks to our friends Stephen and Kay, whose sister had come for Christmas armed with two packets of Paxo, one of which was kindly gifted to us saving me processing loads of chestnuts and scouring the countryside on the almost impossible task of finding some sage.
Cloves, also provided by Stephen, and bay leaves picked from our own land, allowed me to make my own bread sauce which tasted very average on Christmas eve when I made it, but which matured brilliantly overnight in the fridge, to be just as good as I’d hoped when re-heated on Christmas Day.
The last missing ingredients were the sprouts which we managed to locate in the fourth Ribadeo greengrocers shop that we visited, almost on the verge of abandoning the quest. Here, I acquired all that they had left (two for Dolores, one for Amanda, and enough to sink a battleship for me) for a measly sixty-three cents.
Everything came together perfectly, even without Heinz Salad Cream for the Marie Rose sauce to compliment the lovely big Galician prawns in a cocktail. It was all washed down by a superb 1994 Rioja Grand Reserva which had travelled back to Spain from England when we moved here.
Dolores loved the stuffing, bread sauce and Yorkshire puddings (which we threw in for good measure) and declared the whole thing delicious. She was somewhat bemused by the Christmas crackers (again imported), and didn’t get the jokes, but was amused by her ‘gift’ of a hair-grip despite having hair almost as short as mine, and Amanda being gifted a ‘whoopee cushion’.
On the Saturday after Christmas we were invited to our architects for a pre-New Years Eve, New Years Eve party (as they were going to be in Iceland for actual New Years). It was like visiting royalty at their beautiful Pazo in the heart of the Galicia countryside where we drank well and ate better and conversed until making our excuses at five AM while the party was still in full swing, no doubt being called English ‘lightweights’ by the remaining guests.
For New Years Eve we attended the hostal at ‘O Teixo’ with our neighbours and their two children and again had a fantastic night, eating twelve grapes at midnight and then wishing all our English friends ‘Happy New Year’ by text message a clear hour before Big Ben chimed in 2015 in the UK. This time we weren’t the first to leave but the party was still going strong when we left at five-thirty.
With thick heads and eyes held open with match sticks we joined Stephen and Kay for a New Years Day clifftop walk to blow the cobwebs away and we finally got that sunny picnic that we’d been promising ourselves since Christmas Eve.