Celebrations in Spain

December 2004

¡Felices Fiestas!

In urban America many of us are far removed from the natural cycles of the year --  at least along the Coasts. We do recall our agricultural heritage by setting a bountiful harvest table on Thanksgiving Day. I hope that your celebration was one that brought you a measure of gratitude and contentment. We actually had two Thanksgiving feasts, because our son Chris had to leave early to return to Armenia where he and his wife serve at the embassy.

In Spain it is a little different. Autumn harvest is in the air. Farmers in the La Vera valley of Extremadura have already gathered, dried, and milled the autumn pepper crop to make our pungent pimentón smoked paprika. In the wine country of Cádiz the local harvest of grapes is already becoming part of the traditional solera process for making sherry.  In La Mancha the age-old saffron harvest feria of Albacete with its tradition of song and dance in traditional costumes is but a memory.

Now winter is on the horizon. The cycles of the earth continue on their way unmindful of how important we may think our human events may be.  I remember that it was not that many weeks ago that the Red Sox Nation saw the eclipse of the moon as a portent for their reversal of fortune! On a more serious note, days are getting shorter, the leaves have fallen to the ground, and the bare limbs remind us that the winter season is appreciably different from the rest of the year, in that life and growth is not as evident.

During this time of the year there is a natural human tendency to want to be closer together -- to share each other's warmth and hopes. That is why from antiquity, this is the season for children. In their joyful play and tender interactions they are oblivious to the long shadows. Children are pure life - as any grandparent understands most fully.

It is also a time for us to enjoy being with those we care about, touching others with our love, perhaps even strangers. For all of the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations that we may find ourselves involved - cooking our favorite recipes, dropping off some special plate of baked goods for our neighbor, sending out cards to old friends -- our motivation is essentially to bring joy to one another.

For many of our friends this favorite holiday of the year has a dimension of faith. Today is the first day of Chanukah. Many of our Jewish friends will gather for the next eight days to celebrate their resilience as a people who place their trust in God's unfailing providence. Soon our Christian friends will celebrate the light of God's love coming into the world in the person of a new born child.

Particularly in Spain, this is not an abstract concept. In virtually every shop window is a Belén - a model of Mary and Joseph with the Christ Child huddled in a stable in Bethlehem, surrounded by animals and shepherds. I remember looking in a travel agency window in the little town of Trujillo, amused by the incongruity of seeing a small hand carved crèche nestled in a Samsonite cosmetic case!

I expect we all can recall a time when we looked in awe at a precious, fragile newborn child. No matter what our background, the tender image of Mother cradling the newborn Child reflects hope, and recalls the joy of loving families. However we identify ourselves, we savor in common the opportunity to reunite, nourish our family roots, and share our lives by opening our homes to friend and family alike. I hope that, hard as it may be, you and I are able to remember the purpose of all our preparations - sharing love with others.

Our family, as well as our extended La Tienda family who are working so hard, extend to you best wishes for a joyful holiday season. If we are able to help you by providing products from our neighbors in Spain, so much the better.

¡Feliz Navidad!