We know everything about the Soviet-Russian traditions for the New Year. How are these holidays celebrated in the Basque Country? The journalist Elizaveta Okulova, who lives there, tells what the Basque New Year is, why they eat so much, why they go to the mountains and why the main wizard drinks, smokes and does not at all look like a good-hearted grandfather.
New Year and Christmas holidays are tests for our body and spirit always and in any country in the world. There is a difference in traditions and rituals - for example, in Spain, during the chimes, they eat 12 grapes, instead of burning a piece of paper and throwing ashes into champagne. But the goal is the same - to make a wish (some manage to make 12!), Because it is at the turn of the old and new years that it must come true.
In all countries, children find gifts under the Christmas tree, but somewhere in the morning on January 1, Santa Claus brings them, somewhere after Catholic Christmas Santa presents them, somewhere on January 6, the Magi bring them. In any case, the holidays pass for adults like a typhoon and then they have to recover for another week and come to their senses. So, while the last portion of Olivier is still alive, I will tell you how to survive the holidays in the Basque Country.
As in all of Spain, Christmas is the main holiday here. At Christmas, they set up and decorate a Christmas tree, decorate the house, bake cookies, make beautiful wreaths on the door and on the table. This year, for the first time in my life, I diligently, armed with a glue gun, fastened cones and branches to a paper frame and wrapped all this beauty with green wire so that it would somehow hold on. It turned out a little crooked, but very soulful, the wreath still hangs on the door, scattering needles around the site, and I sweep them every day, but I don't take off the wreath itself. Still, he is my first: for the sake of him I dried the cones in the oven for two hours, ignoring my husband's gundezh, that the cones have no place in the oven, and in general now it must be disinfected. For his sake, I climbed into the thicket of the forest with a pruner in search of the most beautiful branches and even went on a crime by cutting off a branch of a holly. Hypnotic red berries beckoned to me, completely depriving me of my will.
Christmas is traditionally a family holiday: even not very friendly families gather at the same table. First dinner on Christmas Eve, and the next day Christmas lunch. Dinner ends late, everyone returns home in the morning, gets enough sleep and immediately goes to dinner. So for two days you actually fall out of reality, and the main occupation is chewing food and absorbing alcohol. Cheese, jamon, chorizo, pâté, shrimps and olives are always on the table - this is a mandatory minimum set of a festive feast. And then improvisation already begins - whoever has enough imagination and culinary skills. Most likely, there will be ensaladia rusa, the Spanish version of the Olivier salad, where meat / sausage is mercilessly replaced with tuna, and olives are added instead of cucumbers. Not bad, by the way, but Olivier still tastes better, especially when you eat it once a year.
Hot - baked leg of lamb, salmon, cod in pil-pil sauce (this is a traditional Basque dish) - there are a lot of options. It is customary to drink dinner with wine (white / red to choose from) or cava, but after meals they always offer a cocktail: cava with lemon sorbet. Craftsmen will add ice cream there, it turns out even tastier. They say it helps the absorption of food. I'm not sure if this is so, but you shouldn't refuse! The feast ends with cocktails, at four o'clock everyone goes home to dream about food.
However, in the Basque Country there is one distinctive feature, it concerns gifts, more precisely, the one who brings them. If in Russia we are accustomed to Santa Claus, then Olenchero brings gifts to children among the Basques. Olenchero is a coal miner, he lives in the mountains, walks around forever dirty, smokes a pipe and drinks wine from a flask. And to children who behave badly, he brings coal instead of gifts (however, sweet coal is sold here, it is quite tasty). In general, Olenchero is a character that is not at all sleek and not commercial, and inspires respect and awe. Again, Basque children receive the main gifts at Christmas, while throughout Spain the Magi bring the main gifts on January 6th. We'll get to them later in this holiday story. The beauty of Olenchero is that his gifts can be enjoyed all two weeks of school holidays!
In Spain, it is not customary to stand on ceremony and praise an unnecessary vase in the form of a shepherdess. Instead of a gift, you get a "gift check", which means you can safely go to the store and exchange the vase for something dearer to your heart. So the weekends after the holidays in stores are real exchange days. Previously, such an attitude towards a gift invariably put me into a stupor: you tried and chose how to exchange your gift, but this year I changed a giant scarf with giraffes that I did not need for an excellent backpack and realized the charm of traditions.
After Christmas, endless children's activities begin. Children walk around the town, singing songs, and the most persistent drag on themselves the figure of that very Olenchero. Have you seen Olenchero? Fine, now I have to write a letter to the Magi. In small towns, the wise men always take letters from children in order to come to them with gifts later. The most fun in the festive mess is not to overwhelm the child with gifts and not completely deprive him of his mind. Honestly, my son got so much from Olenchero that when on the morning of January 1 he unrolled the coveted drum kit with a kind of resignation on his face. Kind of like: "Well, everything is as I expected."
Somewhere between the writing of letters, children's parties and carousels and the return-exchange of a gift, the New Year begins. Many people celebrate December 31 with friends, but in our company New Year is also considered a family holiday. Many couples share Christmas / New Years - one date with the wife's family and another with the husband's family. We celebrate the New Year with my family, which means with Olivier, herring under a fur coat and even jellied meat. For balance - seafood, Spanish snacks and some favorite hot dish of all. Then my parents leave, and I have to use the last bit of strength to finish the herring and jellied meat: neither husband nor son perceive them as food. They quickly chew on jamon, shrimp and Olivier, leaving me with my oddities.
This New Year was especially hard for me. The fact is that in our mountain village there is a tradition in the morning of the 31st to go to … the mountains. They go to the mountains with children, parents, grandparents, mother-in-law and mother-in-law. There are several routes, including you can get to the village on that very mountain and walk from it - this is for families with small children who want to participate. My friends and I decided that all these half measures were for weaklings and went all 8 kilometers up (and then four more down) together with brave children who held up better than their parents. At the very top, a holiday awaits everyone - cava, wine, water and coca-cola, cheese, chorizo and other goodies. And also a general photo, which is always taken exactly at 12.30, so you have to be in time. After a couple of glasses of sparkling, the feat does not seem like such a feat, and you are almost ready to repeat it, but, fortunately, there is no need - going down is much easier and more pleasant.
After such a busy morning, my evening turned out to be difficult: my legs ached, and in general I left the feeling of celebration on the mountain. So I could hardly stay until 1 am: I ate the prescribed 12 grapes under the chime of the clock (you need to eat carefully so as not to choke), made a wish and went to bed with a sense of accomplishment.
The New Year's feast ended, and on January 1, again, a festive dinner. Usually in a restaurant. On the night of the 1st, we get home, promising ourselves never to eat anything again, and the very next day we break this promise: the Olivier basin beckons. Ms. and gin and tonic stayed. And for some reason they didn't finish the wine!
The next super important date is January 5, the cavalcade of the magi. In all towns and villages, a costumed theatrical performance takes place - the Magi Gaspar, Belshazzar and Melchior are marching through the streets. Their procession is supposed to stage the adoration of the Magi to the baby Jesus, but in the end it is a fun festive spectacle for the children: the Magi sit on huge platforms, they are accompanied by pages, animals, everyone is scattering sweets. The more chocolates he collected, the more prosperous this year will be, real battles take place in large cities. After the procession, everyone returns home with supplies of sweets and goes to bed, not forgetting to supply water for the camels, on which the Magi will come to bring gifts to obedient children. Coal awaits the disobedient again.
And on January 6, another day of family dinners and a day of a special pie, it is called Raskon. A special dough is made for it, cream is usually used as a cream and decorated with candied fruits and / or nuts. Inside the cake they hide a figure of a sorcerer and a bean: if a sorcerer is caught, you get a crown and good luck, if you find a bean, you pay for the raskon and you feel sad. Last year I came across a sorcerer in a piece of raskon, and this year I also really count on him!