778 Years Ago Today

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778 years ago today, on December 31st, 1229, Mallorca was recaptured from the hands of the occupying Moors.

King Jaume I from Catalunya-Aragon sailed to Mallorca with a contingent of Catalan men (and finance) to conquer the island back from the Muslim invaders who had occupied the Balearic Islands since 902. The armada landed in Santa Ponsa some time in September of that year, but a final document of surrender was signed between the Arab leader, Abu Yahia and King Jaume I, on the last day of 1229.

Mallorca became a Kingdom in its own right some 30 years later, in 1262. However, the Kingdom of Mallorca only lasted until the Battle of Llucmajor, in 1349.

My photo shows a statue of King Jaume I (James The Conqueror) which is situated in Plaza España in the island capital, Palma de Mallorca.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 22nd, 2007. The time was 13:11:46.

778 Years Ago Today

12 Grapes At Midnight

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Tradition has it that for good luck in the New Year, and all year long, 12 uvas de la suerte (grapes of luck) have to be eaten at midnight on New Years Eve. Didn’t I tell you about superstitions in Spain, only yesterday?

Anyway, in Spain, there will be 12 strokes of the bell, in each town and every city, and from each parish church tower and every townhall on the stroke of midnight. You would be well advised to eat one grape per stroke, or so the superstition goes. If successful in this endeavour, you are granted a wish for the New Year.

You may find that the local corner shop or even your supermarket may have run out of grapes by the early hours of New Years Eve, hence my reminding you of this year-end habit and custom, one day early.

May I also aid you with a little trick in the endeavour: the smart Spanish housewife buys small grapes rather than big ones, and seedless ones at that. You’ll easily see that this makes the whole affair so much smoother and thus, easier to accomplish.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 28th, 2007. The time was 12:38:17.

12 Grapes At Midnight

Red Underwear

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Superstition is a matter of every day life in Spain. This country still has some very conservative habits and attitudes, which is no wonder if one considers that Spain was isolated from the rest of the world for nearly 40 years not all that long ago, during the time of Franco.

One of the more charming customs and traditions with a background in the field of superstition is the habit of wearing red underwear on the last day of the year and in the hours of partying into the early hours of the New Year. Some sources relate this custom to the times of the plague, others refer to religious ceremonies and others yet deny that any viable reason for this craze exists at all.

Be that as it may, it seems that other countries appear to follow a similar tradition, be that Poland, Portugal, Italy or, wait, even China. By the way, the tradition goes for red lingerie for the ladies, but seems to allow for red underpants for the males, just the same. Make your own choice, but please don’t blame me for some possible mishap during the course of 2008.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 23rd, 2007. The time was 12:27:24.

Red Underwear

April Fools

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December 28th (i. e. today) is something like April Fools Day in Spain and in most countries in South America.

This day is named after the Santos Inocentes (innocent saints) and has its origins in the biblical legend of the killing of innocent babies under King Herodes. Spain and the other countries do not follow the tradition of April 1st, as most of us do in the English speaking world. If you want to tease somebody in Spain, it will have to be today.

Beware today of some of your Spanish acquaintances as they might wish to send you up the garden path. Don’t even trust all the news in your daily newspaper, be they Spanish or simply printed in Spain.

I promise that I am not teasing you with today’s photo. A friend of ours braved the waves three days ago, on Christmas day, here in Mallorca, on the Platja d’es Trenc. You will remember; it was a gorgeous day.

The photo was taken on Platja d’es Trenc, near Sa Rapita, Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 25th, 2007. The time was 15:05:15.

April Fools

The Merriment of Food

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Christmas time in Spain is predominantly a succession of culinary feasts.

Christmas Eve is called Noche Buena, when friends and families like to go out to wine and dine. Spanish restaurants put on special Noche Buena dinners that will easily set you back 100 € or more per person. Some people book their favourite restaurant now for Noche Buena 2008.

On Christmas Day, tradition has it to gather around the table at home, or rather, around Mum’s table, for a big and festive family feast. In the old days, pavo real may have been served (peacock), but nowadays turkey, lobster or sirloin of beef get the preference.

Starters are either codornizes (quails) or Jamón Serrano (see photo). Cava is the preferred drink at Christmas, with the semi-seco variety (semi-sweet) being the preferred choice. In Mallorca, Gató (rich and moist almond cake) with almond ice cream are served for desert.

On Boxing Day, another big meal is in waiting with another big family gathering, this time at the grandparents’ home. On this island, Sopas rellenas are traditionally served then (a type of ravioli soup), with turrón and polvorones coming in for desert. Spanish Brandy and a good cigar for the alpha males, probably from the Dominican Republic or Cuba, are offered for afters.

The photo was taken at a supermarket in Llucmajor, Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 24th, 2007. The time was 12:24:01.

The Merriment of Food

White Christmas

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Despite some snow in the Mallorcan mountains some ten days ago, there was no snow over Christmas, here.

Instead, we enjoyed the most gloriously sunny weather yesterday, a weather pattern that somehow seems to be a quite regular occurrence in these Mediterranean regions over Christmas, something that the locals call el verano pequeño (the little Summer).

Just as I had predicted in my blog entry on December 18th, Christmas Day yesterday was warm and sunny.

We had a nice walk on the beach, exactly as we had wished for. We walked from the Banys de Sant Joan de Sa Font Santa (hot springs) near Campos past the Salinas del Trenc (salt fields) to the Platja d’es Trenc and all the way to Sa Rapita. This is a tour that makes for a nice three-hour walk – there and back – at any time of the year, in case you want to have a go.

The white mountains in my picture are the salt mountains near the salt fields. Salt, not snow.

The photo was taken near Ses Salines, Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 25th, 2007. The time was 13:43:37.

White Christmas

Bon Nadal

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May I wish you a Merry Christmas or, as the Mallorcans say, Bon Nadal.

In the Castilian lingo, one would wish Feliz Navidad.

Whatever your idiom of preference, whatever your background, your race or creed, enjoy the holiday period in peace and quiet, in health and surrounded by love.

The photo was taken in the town of Felanitx, Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 13th, 2007. The time was 19:21:05.

Bon Nadal