Place Kleber hosts the market featuring international charities, the Village of Sharing.. Some of the organizations featured on this square are Doctors Without Borders and Unicef. Here the focus is more information or homemade crafts The market itself is fairly small, but the Christmas tree is the largest in the city, and provided by the National Forestry Office. There is also an outdoor iceskating rink. Rent some skates and interrupt you shopping for a little while.
Around the corner and down a few alleys, you find a small square with many handmade goods. The food isn't as varied at the stalls, but the surrounding shops will feed any craving you might have. And it’s worth the side trip just for the decorated surrounding buildings.
Spanish Christmas Traditions
The Spanish kick of the holiday with the famous lottery El Gordo (the fat one). The pot is so large that almost everyone participates and it has become a national tradition. This year the pool is over 2 billion Euros. This lottery has been played since 1812. Today as the numbers are called, chosen students will sing them out for all to hear.
Christmas Eve is for attending midnight church services. After the service, people walk through the streets with torches, playing musical instruments and singing. The motto of the night is "Tonight is the good night and it is not meant for sleeping."
New Year's Eve - Nochevieja - is celebrated by eating 12 grapes, one for each month of the upcoming year. This should bring good luck.
There is a legend of a giant that tries to cover the sky with smoke on January 5 to stop the journey of the Three Wise Men. These Wise Men bring presents to the children so of course the children have an incentive to stop the giant. They go through the streets dragging chains of cans to make enough noise to scare him away. Many towns have parades with elaborate decorated floats and some made of noise making cans.
January 6 is an end to the national celebrations. This is Three Kings Day, they day that the Wise Men arrived at at Baby Jesus' manger with their presents. Spanish children write them letters and leave out snacks for them just as our American children do for Santa. Instead of milk and cookies, the Three Kings receive Cognac and walnuts.
Let's look at some more peculiar and charming practices in the different regions of Spain.
In Catalonia (the area around Barcelona) they have a thing about, well...poop. Tio de Nadal, the pooping log is so popular that you can buy your own log complete with face, short legs, and blanket covering. You find these cute little fellows at the Christmas Markets. Take it home, cover it with the red checked blanket, and 'feed' it candies and nuts until Christmas. On the happy day, children sing a special song to the log, and 'beat' the log with sticks to make it 'poop' the gifts out under it's blanket.
There are also caganers (poopers) that have become a part of nativity scenes. These little squatters with their pants around their ankles, are usually in the back of the scene or hidden. But they symbolize fertility and good luck. Traditional caganers look like Catalonian peasants with a red beret and pipe, Modern caganers represent celebrities or politicians.
Travel planning usually starts with a destination in mind. I suggest we may be looking at this from the wrong starting point.
Most people plan travel this way: "I have vacation time coming up Where should I go?" Next they look at the travel 'deals' which may not be deals at all when you consider everything involved, and pick a possible destination. Maybe at this point they talk to a few friends and family for their feedback and recommendations. Some of those suggestions could be great, some absolutely worthless. Finally they pick a place, put their hard-earned money down, and settle in to wait until their vacation arrives. They may do some research in advance or only a few days before they leave to see what activites are available in their destination of choice. Then they are off on their trip, they see a fraction of what they could, walking right past some amazing celebration or natural wonder in their blindness. Once they come home they become the experts on that destination. And the cycle continues. I give this kind of person credit for traveling, but not much else. They do not really leave their comfort zone, not really. They do not really see the world.
What if instead of the destination, we started our search centered on the experience we want to have? Adventure? Pampering luxury? Family bonding? To stretch and grow? To serve? To bask on a beach under a foreign sun? To get deliciously lost in an urban setting and excited curiosity instead of unsafe?
There are literally thousands of destinations. There are literally thousands of types of experiences. Combine some of them and make it your own. You don't need your neighbor's advice. You can put away someone else's top ten list. Make your own list. Follow your own interests. Bring home better stories.
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