While the rest of the world knows Spain to be one country, Spain itself sees things a little differently. Originally, the country consisted of eight countries that got forced together over history. This process was called Reconquista.
The original countries, known as Asturias, León, Galicia, Castilla, Navarra, Aragón, Cataluña and Basque Country almost all have their own languages and can’t identify themselves with the modern Spain. Too many differences, people told me. This reflects in the daily news. Cataluña and Basque country being the most insisting.
Funny side fact: Only a couple of weeks ago, Iceland let go of it’s law, that let you kill Basque people legally.
Talking about Cataluña: It’s been in Barcelona where I came across the most absurd Christmas traditions.
Who needs Santa Claus if you can have Caga Tió (the shitting log)? A friendly twig of wood, growing into a log as you feed it all December long, just to have it poop out your presents. After you beat it with a stick. Naturally, singing.
And what Christmas would be complete without a Caganer figurine taking a dump in the corner? Yes indeed. Catalan culture doesn’t cease to amuse Tourists, visiting Barcelona to have a festive holiday.
It’s widely known, that Spain is not exactly famous for speaking more than their own language(s). This goes so far, that they change the names of famous authors, musicians and even movie and TV characters.
And so, my heart skipped a little beat, when I saw the book cover of ‘Oliver Twist’, naturally written by – wait for it – Carlos Dickens.
U2 became UDOS. And not to forget John Nieve from ‘Game of Thrones’.
The list goes on and on. But My heart bleeds too much to look more into this…
No, not in the way you would think. They do see the right colours. But one quite negative thing, I noticed about Spain is, that they don’t wait for the traffic light to turn green before they start driving.
I love Spain, but this little fact really drove me nuts. Especially when people started blowing their horns at me, when I didn’t accelerate like a mad man while I still had red light.
Generally, the Spanish are not big fans of obeying the laws of traffic. The option of indicating the direction you are about to go in, seems widely unknown and keeping the appropriate distance on highways is far too boring, compared with almost pushing the car in front of you.
These things aren’t as mad as in Italy, though, I have to add.
And if you enjoy carousels, you are right in Spain. Roundabouts are everywhere here. The ones in Valencia being the most confusing, I have ever encountered.
The Chinese like to eat in a very loud manner, smacking their food away, to show, the pleasure they find in their meals. Spain has adopted a slightly less environmentally (or cleaning lady) friendly tradition to show, their meal has been enjoyable.
It’s common, people drop their napkin to the ground after cleaning their mouth. This behaviour seems to disappear slowly these days, though. One of my friends told me, she had recently stopped doing it, but that she has grown up with the believe it was the most normal thing to do.
While in cities this affects mainly the people cleaning up, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, when I saw a napkin fly by on the countryside.
Talking about the Spanish country side: One person I noticed when I enjoyed my stay in the mountains in the South of Andalucía was Paco.
At least that’s what I thought. Actually my hosts were talking about several different people (“What? Oh no, that’s the other Paco…”)
Also very popular is the name Pepe. Not to forget about Javi. But that’s about it.
On the countryside in Spain, everybody seems to have the same freaking three names. I’ve learned, that this is due to the tradition of naming your child after it’s grandfather.
This ultimately led me to one slightly unpleasant thought: “The family stays in the village.”
I might be wrong about this, though…
Name anything that could be celebrated to a Spanish person and you are on a good way to actually create a holiday.
If there is a culture that know’s how to celebrate, it’s situated in Spain. In the few months I have been in this country with it’s several different shapes of landscape, I found myself within countless crowds, that have come together to keep Fiesta alive.
And when I talk Fiesta, I don’t mean the occasional party at a club, opening at 2am in the morning (That’s when the party starts), but the highly expensive and dangerous celebrations, that can last for up to three weeks – Las Fallas in Valencia being one of the flagships.
After experiencing it myself I have started to get a feeling why Spain might be in money troubles 😉
Last but not least, Las Fallas have led me to this eighth fact. For everybody who hasn’t read my article about Valencia, being on fire, I suggest you do. One part of this three weeks long festival is the practice of burning the so called Fallas – huge, beautifully detailed styrofoam figures.
But it is not the only celebration where fire has high importance. In a small village in the mountains by Granada, the population celebrated San Antoñio with huge piles of burning twigs in their fairly narrow streets. I still don’t understand how the few firefighters (well, actually the ‘Guardia Civil’) could stay so relaxed with those giant flames going up right next to wooden balconies that seemed more antique than your great grandmother’s porcelain set.
At Las Hogueras de San Juan they also burn smaller versions of Las Fallas. After the firefighters put out the fires, it’s tradition to insult them in such a bad manner, that they start shooting water into the crowd.
Except for many other ‘fiestas del fuego’, that I’ve heard of, it’s common practice to burn dry wood in big quantities in Winter. But that’s due to safety issues in Summer. The hot Spanish sun frequently sets entire hillsides on fire, that haven’t been cleared out of their brushwood.
I really hope, I won’t receive sh!tloads of hate mail from the lovely Spanish people after this article. While I surely don’t agree with every tradition when it comes to environmental friendliness or social commitment, so I have definitely enjoyed them and love the Spanish people, including their interesting, funny and – yes – sometimes questionable lifestyles and traditions.
I have enjoyed my stay a lot, made a lot of amazing friends and I hope to be welcomed back without ending up being burned at the stake – See what I did there? 😉
I hope everybody understands my humour and sarcasm in this article.
If you know any Spanish oddities or weird traditions, you are more than welcome to share them with us in the comment area below.
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