Saturday, 4 February 2012
Noche de lumbre
The turning of the calendar wheel; the passing of time; celebrations - pagan, Celtic, Christian and secular.
Many of these share common dates and the beginning of February is one such time.
Here in Spain, the 1st February is traditionally a night to light fires - lumbres - and here in Alcalá la Real, on a bitterly cold evening, the glow and warmth from many fires was both welcome and uplifting. We were invited to join the fire at the iglesia La Consolación, the biggest in our town, by our neighbour, Manuel. So at around 8pm, we wrapped up warm and made the short walk to the church, where the fire was already burning brightly.
In addition to lots of lovely olive wood, the fire was regularly stoked with piles of rosemary, which as well as crackling dramatically, gave off the most wonderful smelly smoke!
There were piles of 'patatas fritas' - which are fried potatoes and can be either what we call 'chips' (and hot) or 'crisps' (and cold) - I say this because in Spain, 'chips' are crisps, but I reckon this is because Spanish people struggle so hard to say 'crisps'. It's something I get my students to say and it creases me up to see them struggling with the 'sps' sounds - it's alien to them and their mouths contort amazingly in the attempt to bring unfamiliar consonants together. That and 'wasps'... I guess I am easily amused.
Where was I? Ah yes, crisps and other crunchy snacks were laid out on a table along with many bottles of wine, each with special 'pouring' top on - which we had to lift high above our heads and pour the wine into our mouths - saves on providing glasses or cups and no need to share germs! Made the wine taste even better, too, in my opinion.
As we stood, as close to the fire as we dared, we were offered slices of chorizo and salsichon made from the recently deceased pigs - killed during late Autumn at numerous local 'matanzas'. Very welcome and of excellent quality.
Then we heard a familiar sound - Manuel's piano accordian. And I have to say, in a crowded place, with only snatches of the tune wafting through lively conversation, one could almost imagine that Manuel could actually play his instrument - it added a certain something to the evening's enjoyment. A good thing, that is.
And after about an hour, mellow from wine and the glow of the fire, we poddled back in good spirits to our home and agreed that life was good and February was definitely a month for celebrating this fact.
A PS. The next day, I was teaching a couple of English people who live in the next town south from here - Montefrio - and they had not known of the tradition of lighting fires. They live out in the country and heard a loud explosion - so loud, they went out to investigate and were horrified to see what seemed like their neighbour's house on fire! They were so relieved a couple of moments later when two big fireworks went shooting up into the sky and some more, firework-related explosions.
PPS - I wrote about this celebration on my blog last year, together with the one of 2 February, - it has a little more information if you're interested.