Hemingway once said that “Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night.”
I under no circumstances disrepute this. In fact, I’d like to extend it to the majority of Spain.
f there is one thing I have learnt about Spain in my two months of living here, it is that Spaniards love to celebrate.
They love to dress up, they love to make noise and they are so proud of their communities.
Las Fallas, or the festival which welcomes Spring, is a fiesta which lasts an entire week.
The streets are wriggling with people all day and night while enormous cartoon figures loom in the air, ready to explode and be set on fire on the awaited finale of the celebration. Hundreds and hundreds of women and men march up and down the narrow streets with live bands at the rear, dressed in traditional Spanish dresses while their friends and family cheer and take photos on the side lines. Small children run up and down the streets, throwing firecrackers; one goes off at least every minute from every direction, no matter where you are. Children carry flowers to set upon an enormous wooden frame with a lady at the top, who towers over an enormous plaza in the middle of the city.
All this, every year, to welcome Spring and farewell winter.
Semana Santa is just another example; the week of Easter.
Particularly in the southern cities, entire streets are closed off, with thousands of chairs set on the sidelines for the general public while brotherhoods of cloaked figures, wearing traditional inquisitional style robes, march down, followed by enormous floats depicting the life of Jesus, carried by up to 40 hidden men beneath them so as to give the impression that it is floating. Every day for a week thousands and thousands of Spaniards block the streets to watch the processions, wearing their own Easter best and shushing the louder people within the crowds. Simply standing amongst the crowd and observing, it feels like there is so much I don’t know that is imbedded in this culture – despite the very excited Spanish woman whispering explanations to my friends and I about what is what; proudly repeating that we cannot leave until we have seen the Virgin Mary float pass.
Small children rush up to the passing hooded figures to collect dripping wax from their enormous candals, to form balls of wax – some bigger than the size of a tennis ball – that they carry around with them during the night. Other hooded figures stop on their own accord, handing out lollies to the toddlers standing on the sidelines with parents. Some figures walk barefoot underneath their robes, others wink discreetly at familiar faces as they walk by.
I knew I was in for a culture shock when I got here, but I didn’t expect to be so dumbfounded by awe of what seems such regular moments of occurrence.
Siestas at 4pm, dinner at 9pm, parties starting at 11pm, back home by 6am, only to get somewhere the next day at 9am – that is certainly something that takes time getting used to!
But so does the old ruins and magnificent sceneries, rivers running through cities and homes int the mountains that makes up a lot of Europe – especially for someone who has never seen this side of the world!