• Segismundo Moret, adoptive son of Cáceres

    One of the things I like most about my jorb the moment when the visitor wants to share the wonders of the place where they come from. Some even draw me a route with what I should not miss, where to stay, where and what to eat, curiousfacts… This is how I got to go to visit Cáceres after one of the visitors’ recommendations meanwhile I had the pleasure of accompanying them on a circuit through the province of Cádiz last autumn.

    I had no choice but to plan the trip under they plans, so I went to Extremadura to visit Cáceres a few days ago.

    I must confess that I have fallen in love with this city. If I was already excited imagining everything I had been told about it. Walking through its cobblestone streets inside the city walls and its Jewish quarter has been an unforgettable experience. Now I understand why it has been the scene of numerous films and series such as “Isabel”, “La Catedral del Mar” or even the well-known Game of Thrones.

    So while practicing the pleasant task of getting lost in its streets, I came across a commemorative plaque to Segismundo Moret and Prendergast… What did this citizen of Cádiz have to do with Cáceres? When I read the plaque I smiled remembering all the times I talked about Moret in his hometown Cádiz, and yet placing him there was totally unknown to me…

    Certainly I had to start an investigation, and this is what I found out…

    A bit about Moret

    It is know that Segismundo Moret and Prendergast was born in the city of Cadiz, in the house number 15 of Sacramento street, and died in Madrid in 1913.

    His family moved from Barcelona to Cádiz in the early 19th century, the golden age of the city’s sea trade. Her father was a member of the Treasury department and her mother was related to the English aristocracy, as she was the daughter of Luis de Prendergast and Gordon, Marquis of the Victory of the Tunas in Cuba. From her, he inherited the admiration for the British social and political model.

    Although it is true that Segismundo had a very well social status thanks to his family, his in-laws contributed to it too, because he married Concepción Remisa, daughter of one of the most important bankers of the Spanish Queen Elisabet II.

    He studied in Madrid, because his family left Cádiz when Segismundo was very young. There he joined the Central University to study Civil Law and Administration.

    Once he obtained his bachelor’s degree, he was proposed to the chair of economics and politics on an interim basis, being by opposition the way in which he obtained the Chair of Financial Institutions in 1858.

    In 1861 he founded the Spanish Society for the Progress of the Social Sciences, which reflects the philanthropic character of Segismundo, who was always interested in knowledge and all sciences.

    Political career and archievements

    Moret Monument in Cádiz.

    Political career:

    • In 1863 he was appointed Independent Deputy in the city of Almadén, position to which he resigned, being reelected soon, this time in Ciudad Real.
    • 1868 collaborates in the drafting of the ’68 Spanish Constitution.
    • 1870 is appointed Minister of Overseas in the cabinet chaired by General Prim. He also drafted the Moret law, abolishing slavery in Puerto Rico and declaring the children of slaves free.
    • 1871 he was appointed Minister of Finance during the reign of Amadeus I of Savoy. Soon after, he moved to London as ambassador, where he later resigned and worked in London banks.
    • 1875, at the return of the Bourbons dinasty to the Spanish throne, he returned to Spain and founded the Democratic Monarchist Political Party.
    • 1882, the party merges with the Left Dynastic and Moret ends up in the liberal party of Sagasta.
    • 1883, he was appointed Minister of Government under the Liberal Government of José Posada Herrera.
    • 1885, he was appointed Minister of State by the government of Sagasta.
    • 1881, 1901 and 1902, Minister of the Government.
    • 1892, Minister of Public Works.
    • 1892-1894, Minister of State.
    • 1895, he was appointed President of the Ateneo in Madrid.
    • 1897-1898, becomes Minister of Overseas Affairs (during the Cuban crisis)
    • 1902, creates the “Institute of Social Reforms” (precursor of the Ministry of Labour)
    • 1905-1906, President of the Council of Ministers.
    • 1909, he heads the Presidency of the Government, resigning months later.
    • 1912, the Count of Romanones appoints him President of the Government.

    On top of that, in the city of Cádiz:

    • He inaugurated the maritime exhibition.
    • He helped to commemorate the centenary of the Courts.
    • He was responsible for the current lighthouse of San Sebastián Castle.
    • He urged the widening and demolition of the city walls and the pier.
    • He gave talks at the First Journalism Congress at the Falla Theater.

    Whilst appreciating all these efforts, declare him favorite son and raised a monument (located in the crowded square of San Juan de Dios nowadays) and a commemorative plaque by his home where it says: “A great statesman, an outstanding orator and an outstanding defender of democratic ideas.” A recognition he enjoyed years before his death.

    Favorite son of Cádiz and adoptive son of Cáceres

    Plaque located in Moret street. Cáceres.

    What is Moret’s connection with Cáceres?

    Well, it turns out that Segismundo knew about the phosphate rocks of Extremadura, which were discovered in 1864 in a nearby calerize. This discovery prompted his numerous visits to the city between 1874 and 1881.

    In 1876 Segismundo acquired the rights to the mining preserve, the Moret Village, and created the General Phosphate Society of Cáceres, of which he was also his president.

    Another reason for visiting the city was the constitution of the railway line that linked Madrid with Portugal, specifically with Lisbon.

    The municipality of Cáceres agreed to distinguish Moret with the title of Adoptive Son and a street that bears his name and in which this plaque is located.

    But it won’t stop here…

    The life and work of Sigismund Moret was so intense and fruitful that I am sure he left many things in the inkwell. If you’re interested, I encourage you to keep digging…

    One thing that must be emphasized about his personality is that he did not boast of his exploits, being a man of austere character until the end of his days. An example of this is on his wishes for his own funeral: «The only thing that I wish is for my coffin covered with the national flag, so that this sacred sign speaks, when my voice is already extinguished, of the love that I profess to my homeland and I will profess it until my last moments. Neither flowers nor crowns».

    Besides, touristically speaking:

    • In Madrid, we can walk along the Moret parade, located between Moncloa square and Rosales promenade.
    • In Huelva, the decree of Municipal Corporations that extended the life of the municipalities led to the famous Paseo de la Cinta, recovered as a park for leisure and recreation, being called Moret Park in 1910.
    • In Zaragoza, the museum preserve a bust of him in commemoration of being the promoter of the Spanish-French exhibition of 1908.

    And here concludes my research on this illustrious character…

    I wish and hope you liked it. I read your comments.

    And don’t forget, if you want me to be your guide through the province of Cadiz and beyond…

    CONTACT

    ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️

    🌐 www.dejateguiarporcarolina.com
    💌 Info@dejateguiarporcarolina.com
    🕸️ @dejateguiarporcarolina
    🕸️ Déjate guiar por Carolina

  • A mudejar stately home of Jerez de la Frontera

    Sanchez-Madroño Mudejar stately house. 15th century. Jerez de la Frontera.

    Walking with a colleague and good friend through the streets of Jerez de la Frontera, the walk took us through the neighborhood of “San Mateo”, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.

    Crossing the adjacent square, known as market square, there are some very interesting streets with old stately houses and sherry bodegas, on the way to the Cathedral zone.

    Passing the well-known bodega, begins the “Cuesta del Espíritu Santo” (Holy spirit slope), which receives its name from an ancient 15th century convent where the nuns are said to came up with the recipe of the famous Jerez dessert par excellence, the “tocino de cielo”. Unfortunately nothing else remained of this convent, currently closed under lock and key, being its rich cultural heritage scattered throughout the many temples of the city.

    Already in the neighborhood of “El Salvador”, down the already pointed slope, on its left side, we stopped to contemplate this ancient and singular facade, being its extreme simplicity what caught my attention, compared to the ones of the rest of the stately houses of the area. The entrance door opens to the slope, but the house continues towards an alley, Madroño street.

    Since then, I became curious and I began to investigate what would be a Mudejar house of the fifteenth century like, and it turns out that they are much more typical than I thought…

    15th century Mudejar stately house typology

    This kind of house were built in the transition from the middle ages to modern age

    between the final Gothic and the beginnings of the Renaissance, along with reminiscent Arab architecture and decorative elements.

    During the last centuries of the Middle Ages, times of coexistence of Arab, Christian and Jewish culture, the Arabs sought to reside in their own neighborhoods to better protect themselves against possible aggressions. They were located outside the city walls, close enough to wall though, equipped with garden and yard. It is also true that successful Arab businnessmen, according to their social status, resided in Christian areas for the sake of their professional activities and businesses.

    The house, of which I speak, would respond to the first type, located close to the walls built by the Almohads from the 12th century when they named the city Sherish.

    These houses were designed with the intention of durability in time, for the enjoyment and use of the family, without any speculative intent.

    We talk about modest houses, eqquiped with ground floor and hip roof whose access was by an external staircase.

    Let’s see more details…

    Organisation:

    • The living rooms and kitchens are found on the ground floor.
    • The hip roof is used as storage, as workshop, or for small animals breeding (like pigeons). In time, these rooms became polyfunctional spaces, including bedrooms.
    • The ground floor is distributed around a central courtyard, which is kind of an impluvio, generated by the meeting of the roofs of the perimeter bays. Right in the center comes the well, although sometimes there is a small cabin that contains a it along with a sink, and other times, the well was set in the kitchen.
    • The garden and yard face the street.

    Building Materials:

    • Mud: paste made by mixing certain percentages of soil or sand, lime and solid elements (gravels, boulders or remains of crushed bricks and ceramics).
    • This paste was distributed in molds that facilitate the construction of considerable thickness walls, which provide freshness in summer and insulate from the cold and humidity of winter.
    • The lack of resistance of the wall is solved with brick chains, masonry baseboards or any other combination using stronger materials.
    • Lime was also used as a coating.

    The facade:

    • Originally austere, with access by a lintel arch, highlighted by the line of the facade or marked by molding.
    • It is possible to observe some reused ashlar on the jambs. On the years to come, baroque style was responsible for refilling the decoration with split pediments, pilasters and large balconies.
    • It does not have many windows, just one on each side of the entry door, decorated by iron work and lintels. In time, they were decorated with baroque elements, as in the case of the entry gateway access.
    • Stone rigs are few in number, most of the time on some parts of the wall, to reinforce corners and weaker areas exposed to friction.

    Roofs:

    • Traditionally an inclined gabled roof.
    • The facade bays are covered with gable roof, while the party walls may have a single skirt.

    Forge and beams:

    • The wood quality depended on the owner’s economy level.
    • Pine was traditionally the most used wood. Some people used chestnut and oak trees from the saw.
    • In some cases, they used for these structures eucalyptus wood, which was not also cheaper and abundant but effective against termite.

    Floor:

    • Traditionally they used mud for patios, open areas and the most noble and representative rooms.
    • Bricks may be combined with showy elements sometimes, such as “olambrillas”, or “alisares” at the steps angles.
    • The boulder or the sardinel brick is found in the stands, patios and yards. Soils that are usually trod by animals and carriages. They form herringbone drawings to prevent slipping.
    • They also used lime or cement grout.
    • Later reforms included marble in great noble and bourgeois houses.

    Forgery:

    • The most common is the “cuadrillo”, typical in Andalusian and Spanish architecture.
    • Later on, it acquired complex forms, rich in movement and very elaborated, baroque style kind.

    Gateways:

    • The most cared for are the entry gateway and the one that gives entrance from the hallway indoors to the patio, decreasing in quality according to the function of the room.
    • Doors made by boards were the most common and possibly the oldest type. Boards were joined longitudinally by large head nails which served as decoration.
    • The entry gateway door has usually two leaves. On the other hand, the door that gives access from the hallway indoors, to the patio, had just one. The latter sometimes presented a small window that served as a peephole.

    Capitals:

    • Made of brick in very simple shapes due to the limitation of the same material.
    • The oldest one dates from the XVI, called “castañeta”, a simplification of the classical Corinthian capital. Already in the XVIII century appeared a stylized form of the Tuscan capital.

    Not much more have I been able to find out about the house, because its owner may not be happy with me looking around.

    As you can see in the photo, the facade is made by stone blocks.

    The ceiling seems to be a gabled roof.

    The entry door has double leaves with nails joining the boards, and the wooden lintel is clearly seen.

    The jambs are reinforced and the gateway has two stone blocks steps.

    The pavement of the street is resolved with bands of pebbles divided and framed by stone blocks.

    The house is known as Sánchez-Madroño family Mudejar stately house.

    I pressume that the family has a noble lineage, but as I have not yet been able to find any specific information about it, I will only highlight this note.

    To sum up…


    If you love the city and already know its main tourist attractions, do not miss to walk through this neighborhood and look for this interesting place for its singularity and history, which takes us back to “Xerez” city, named so right after the Christian conquest.

    I am sure that if you take a picture and share it, few people will be able to place it in this city.

    And you may already know that…


    If you want to know many more curious and unknown places of this city, the province of Cadiz, Seville and beyond…


    DO CONTACT!

    ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️

    🌐 www.dejateguiarparolina.com (web)
    💌 Info@dejateguiarporcarolina.com (email)
    🕸️ @dejateguiarporcarolina (instagram)
    🕸️ Dejate guiar por Carolina(facebook)

    Thanks!

  • Carnival of Cadiz (part II)

    Carnival band. Market square. Cadiz.

    It seems incredible that the first contest stage have passed and we are already in the quarterfinals of the COAC at the Great Falla Theater…

    Alreadt seen the origin and historical prolegomenas, we will approach more towards the current carnival, celebrated in the most famous «silver cup» of the world (Cadiz is know as the little silver cup, named by the Spanish Queen Elisabeth II)

    To do this, I encourage you to read part one first, because that is the key to understand this holiday.

    The carnival municipalisation

    To talk about «a carnival festival program», we have to go back to the second half of the 19th century. At that time there was a Liberal central government. The Bourgeoisie, with the association Athenaeum, continued to celebrate its mascarade dances in private houses and theatres. The town hall thus begins to see economic income thanks to the holidays.

    Even so, the guidelines for the celebration of these four pre-lent days remained very strict, imposing heavy fines and prison sentences.

    The commissioning of the train facilitated the arrival of many visitors from nearby towns.

    The festival was advertised in newspapers and posters.

    The carnival attracted so much that it encouraged the organization of trips to Cadiz.

    Proof of this is this 1916 poster in which one could enjoy the activities for four days departing from Seville, for the small price of 50 pesetas.

    Round trip, accommodation, activities and even a lot of paper streamers…

    An irresistible offer….

    The citizen’s feelings expressed

    Carnival band performance. Cathedral square. Cadiz

    Many followers of Cadiz carnival are in love of its lyrics, sung out loud. Real pieces of art that praise the goodness of the beautiful Cadiz, its history, its customs, its people… But they are also a means of expressing the people’s heartbeat.

    The humorous, critical and sometimes crude tone of these compositions have been the subject of harsh persecutions and censorship since ancient times.

    An example took place in 1868, when the groups went out to dance proclaiming carefree couplets of ironic lyrics against politics. The result was the publication of an edict that banned all parodies against the institutions.

    But the worst was still to come…

    The carnival of 1870 was severely punished by the police and the army, with strong interventions all along the four days.

    On the last day, Tuesday, a group of people went out into the street to sing hard against the president and his «pucherazo» (electoral fraud).

    Curiously, the local press did not say anything about it, so we had look at Madrid press. It narrated a tough police chase with shots and injuries among the population. But this did not stop there, because the resentful group responded by heading to San Antonio Square to spray the stage with turpentine and set it on fire.

    From then on…

    In the years to come, anyone who wanted to sing had to request a license by registering the participant’s data and address. Later on, it was also necessary to register the lyrics to be sung.

    The bourgeoisie continued its activities. Once the right of association was recognized by low, the lower bourgeoisie and the proletariat united together. The meetings were organized in cafes and gatherings where about educational activities in addition to those of the carnival itself.

    The wit of Cadiz was already reflected in the carnival of 1872, when a group of six members came out carrying a letter in their heads. Specifically they were: A, A, D, E, M, O. The six members were interspersed among themselves and with the spectators in the streets singing parodies. When inserted between them, they formed words, being one of them «AMADEO», alluding to Amadeo of Savoy, the «adopted king». The reprisal did not reach the previous level but it is known that they were preventively detained.

    And what about the famous carnival bands?

    In 1884 the mayor Eduardo Genovés was the first mayor who, in addition to setting guidelines, demanded the registration of copies of the carnival songs lyrics.

    This was one of the requirements that the band “the rich old women” had to fulfill, whose songs kept them traveling for several years.

    They performed around Cadiz province, throughout Andalusia, then touring Spain and even America.

    While they were widely accepted wherever they went, they were not always able to act because of censorship.

    An example of this was in 1886, when his Republican couplets were censored in Malaga.

    This “edict of the lyrics” of Mayor Genovés has made it possible for us to enjoy them today.

    The oldest surviving lyrics date from 1881 and are handwritten.

    What about the great contest?

    Falla Theater.

    Let’s continue with the 80s of the 19th century…

    In 1887, at the initiative of the town council, a contest with a cash prize was held. Part of this prize consisted of fines that the groups had to pay for censorship of their lyrics. Once the groups known about this, they decided to boycott by mutual agreement and not to appear.

    In 1888, the Slavic Theatre held a private contests with the awards for the first three groups. As a curiosity, foreign groups were allowed to participate and music and costume were also valued.

    In 1889, the town hall again held a competition in the main theatre, with the paper printing of the couplets and a prize money as a reward.

    The carnival of 1896 is of great importance, the year of the «First Official Contest of Groups» organized by the city council. Contest that establishesda small regulation that values lyrics, music, costumes, staging… The date is also remembered by the participation of the legendary “Los Claveles” choir. (Carnations choir)

    The regulations for the number of participants and group type (choir, estudiantina, murga, chirigota…), were developed later towards the twenties of the next century, being modified the following years.

    Until the middle of the 20th century, with the regain of the carnival as «Folk festivals», the contest was finally held in the Falla Theatre.

    Finally, in 1977, the carnival was given back its traditional name and date…

    Carnival is not just a party, it is the month in which the people of Cadiz open their hearts to the world to show their courage and tell us their story, which neither the church, nor the invaders, nor politics, nor censorship has managed to keep silent.

    And that is humble statement. I know there’s a lot more, so if you’re up for it, I’d love to read you in the comments.

    And remember, you can follow me in…

    • @dejateguiarporcarolina (instagram)
    • Déjate guiar por Carolina (facebook)
    • info@dejateguiarporcarolina.com (email)

    Reach me to design your personal tour.

    Thank you!

  • The three wise men, dismantled

    Adorazione dei Magi. Sandro Botticelli. 1475.

    Whether you’ve been good or bad and whether you believe in them or not, the Three Wise Men are a figment of your imagination. Within the next few paragraphs I’ll show you so, shall we?

    The Holy Scriptures say…

    Bethlem Star.

    To know what the Bible says, we have to read what the evangelists tell about the life of Jesus in the gospels. In this case, the only one who comments about the Epiphany is Matthew:

    After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

     When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

     “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
        are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
    for out of you will come a ruler
        who will shepherd my people Israel.”

     Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

    After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

    Matthew 2, 1-12. The Holy Bible.

    So, according to this passage, we can highlight…

    • When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of King Herod…
    • Magicians came from the east to Jerusalem, asking where is the King of the Jews was born
    • For we have seen his star in the east, and come to worship him.

    As we read the text carefully and inquire into the context where it happened, I am extremely struck by…

    1. Let say there was just three magicians… why then King Herod himself, the highest authority of Jerusalem, was troubled as well as the whole city of Jerusalem, at the arriving of such eminences? The magicians would had travelled with their servants and a large number of people, because if they carried with them such expensive gifts for Jesus, they had to be well supported to protect themselves from possible attackers on the roads. Moreover, if his presence troubled the king of Jerusalem and his inhabitants, his arrival had to be an spectacle, so that even Herod himself would show so much interest in knowing who was that Child for whom they bothered to travel following the eastern star to worship Him.
    2. Lets say they were kings… The word that Matthew chooses to describe the travelers is not kings but magi, from the Greek «magoi», which meant a wise wealthy and recognized person who had great knowledge of science, especially astronomy.
    3. When the star stopped, they entered the HOUSE where the Child was… but, it was in a manger where they worshiped baby Jesus, am I right? This indicates that the Epiphany had to take place some time after the birth of Jesus, because they no longer find him in a manger, but in a house. Also, if we continue reading Matthew’s gospel, he tells us that when the wise men departed, an angel appeared to Joseph in dreams to tell him to flee with Mary and the Child to Egypt, and later on, we read that Herod, being mocked by the magicians who did not return to him to reveal where the Child was, ordered to kill all the CHILDREN UNDER TWO YEARS… Why then children under two years and not only the babies? So, Jesus must have grown up when the magicians arrived in Jerusalem.

    From Magi to Kings…

    Our Majesties crowns.

    And it was “Quintus Septimus Tertulianus” one of the Christian Church Doctors, who somewhere around the 2th or 3th century by mistranslation of the Psalm 72 of the Old Testament, thought that the magi should be kings…

    May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
        bring tribute to him.
    May the kings of Sheba and Seba
        present him gifts.
    11 May all kings bow down to him
        and all nations serve him.

    Psalm 72, 10-11. The Holy Bible.

    From some to three magi…

    Saint Domitila Catacombs. Rome.

    It is not until the fifth century when some magicians (kings now), according to Pope Leo I in one of his Ephipany Sermons become three…

    But why just three?

    • If they are three gifts (gold, incense and myrrh) then it should be three kings.
    • At that time, only three continents were known: Asia, Europe and Africa, so, why not one king from each continent?
    • Three are the ages of man: youth, adulthood and old age.
    • They can also represent the three ethnic races: Persian, Arab and Hindu.
    • And three are the Holy Trinity too

    Got it already or should I go on?

    The three kings baptism…

    Saint Apollinare. Ravenna, Italy. VI century mosaics.

    They say that the three wise men’s names appeared for the first time in a non-canonical gospel, «The Armenian Gospel of Childhood» dating from the 4th century. Much later, in 9th century, the names were accepted in the Liber Pontificalis of Ravenna.

    It is curious that the Italian mosaic of the church of Saint Apollinare the New in Ravenna, made towards the 6th century… This piece of art represents the three kings carrying their offerings walking towards Mother Mary who holds the Child and is surrounded by angels. Well, just above the three men, one can read their names: Balthassar, Melchior and Gaspar.

    Gold, Incense, Myrrh

    Gold, inciense, myrrh.

    And that’s how Three easter Kings, their origin, their names and their gifts were created. It must also be said that at the beginning, they were of white complexion, since the church related the dark color with the devil until the 15th century. Then it is represented one of the kings with brown complexion, equally to warn that Christianity has overcome every earthly frontier…

    To be more exact the thing remains more or less so…

    Melchior, the most advanced in age, came from Persia carrying gold. Followed by Gaspar, middle-aged, from India carrying incense. Finally, from Arabia, we have the most jovial of the three, Balthasar a young man of color who travels with the other two kings carrying myrrh to entertain the Child of Bethlehem.

    Gold alludes to the condition of Jesus, King of Kings. Incense to the divinity of that Child, God made man for the salvation of the world. And finally myrrh is linked to death, because it is ointment used to treat the bodies for burial.

    The tradition of giving presents

    Christmas presents.

    From what I have been sharing in these paragraphs, we can understand that just as their Majesties from the East came to the manger with gifts to offer the newborn Son of God, Every year on the night of January 5th, they do the same with the good children who believe in them, going to their houses in secret, because they must be asleep, so as not to be seen.

    The other version is found in the previous post, where I talk about the Holy Innocents, The Saturnals and all the great similarity that these traditional Roman festivals keep with our Christmas, so please, take a look and whether you have behaved well or not, I read you in the comments.

  • Carnival of Cádiz, part one.

    Mask and colorful papelillos.

    As the song goes… “Carnival, carnival, I love you!”

    February is already here, the month where two experientially opposite festivals take place: the carnival and the beginning of Lent.

    And… What do I do mentioning Lent when this entry is supposed to be all about the carnival, the papelillos, the songs, the costumes and partying?
    Well, I’m so sorry to tell you that, without Lent, there would be no carnival. Why? Keep reading….

    The “Carnestolendas”

    «Het Gevecht tussen Carnival en Vasten.» Pieter Brueghel el Viejo. 1559.
    “Carnestolendas”:
    • from Latin: «caro», «carnis» (meat) and «tollendus» from «tollere» (tp remove, to take)
    • removal or disposal of meat, deprivation of its consumption.

    The “carnestolendas” were celebrated days before the beginning of Lent, precisely, from Sunday to Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. On that day, it was customary to go to Mass to receive the anointing with ash in the form of a cross on the forehead. Thus began 40 days of fasting and resting indoors in preparation for Holy Week.

    Faced with this panorama of obligatory fulfillment, the days before the «spiritual confinement» were celebrated inordinately with copious banquets, parties and dances.

    Some people tried to safeguard their identity behind a mask or disguise to avoid being a public scandal victim, humiliated and disgraced.

    The situation became such dangerous that the church had to imposed measures. In order to keep the Christians entertained and away from all evil, they organized religious events and services, such as the 40 hours. Anything to free people from temptations and sin…

    In the end, “Don Carnal” (Mister flesh, representing the desires of tempation) ended up seducing poor Doña Cuaresma (Miss Lenten). Even the church could not resist, being given that every year rumors spoke about nuns making a fuss, or a priest caught in the middle of a masquerade dance party…

    A curious tradition in the city, though…

    By the end of the 16th century, the Cadiz citizens picked up carefully the flowers that grew in the field named the Jara.

    Once back to their houses, they threw the flowers from the balconies to the beautiful ladies walking on the streets, what ended up starting floral battles.

    It is curious that that same field, today named Saint Anthony Square, is currently the scene of the carnival activities, especially the carnival speech.

    And as there are no more flowers to collect there, we have exchanged them for colorful “papelillos”…

    Modern Age

    Going out from a masquerade dance party. José García Ramos. 1905.

    In the centuries to come, the Royal Crown and the government also imposed their rules. Since ancient times, the carnival has known very strict seasons and others somewhat more permissive.

    The monopoly of trade with the “New World” was an unprecedented economic, social and cultural enrichment. The city opened to host important musical and theatrical plays in its numerous theatres.

    Even so, any public act such as wearing a mask, were harshly persecuted and punished. Only members of the high society were able to attend to masquerade dances in private venues. And this lasted only a few years well past the middle of the 18th century.

    The following century, after the departure of the French, in addition to the masquerade dances, mime and dancing groups were allowed.

    It is by this time when we can place the first groups of men and women who sang and danced, the «Cuadrillas», baptized later as «Comparsas».

    As for the lyrics, the Independence War left numerous displays of patriotic couplets and jokes for all tastes. The “Cuadrillas” that arrived in the city, like the ones of slaves and black people, sang in their own language everything learned. Thus once again, Cadiz was enriched by Havana and Havana of Cadiz.

    Nowadays…

    If you want to know more about the festivity of the carnival celebrated currently, the contest, the COAC contest, singing groups, the differents acts and much more… TO BE CONTINUED.


    Be mindful…

    I see you in the comments! And if you want to live this carnival, send me an email so we can design your own experience.

  • The Massacre of the Infants

    The Massacre of the Infants. PP Rubens. 1611 circa. Royal Arts museum. Belgium.

    What’s today commemoration?

    The Holy Bible tells this in Matthew 2, 13-18:

     “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

    So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

    When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

    “A voice is heard in Ramah,
        weeping and great mourning,
    Rachel weeping for her children
        and refusing to be comforted,
        because they are no more.”

    Why then if this is a day to honor the brutal massacre, is a day for laughing and play pranks?

    Saturnalia

    A Roman party. Roberto Bompiani. 1875.

    After a painful defeat against the powerful Cártago, the Romans began to celebrate Saturn, god of time, agriculture and supernatural things, to raise morale.

    In the time of Augustus, Saturnalia lasted two days, Caesar, Caligula and those caesars who followed him extended the holidays progressively, partying for a whole week.
    The beginning of the festivities began with the winter solstice, the “Undefeated Sun”, a time to rest and enjoy the harvests after working the field throughout the year.


    To beging with, there was a sacrifice offered in Saturn’s temple, at the foot of the Capitol. Then, the festivities began, marked by the relaxation of social roles and rules, since the roles were exchanged. Men dressed and behaving like women, masters dressed and serving their slaves who could now as well command their masters…


    The “domus” was another important center of the celebration, therefore they were adorned with vegetable motifs and candles that recalled the birth of the invincible sun whose light increases every day. In them the families celebrated banquets and gave each other gifts. They were days to spend as a family, sharing and celebrating.


    At this point, the resemblance to our Christmas is undeniable, right? Let’s continue…

    The pranks

    December 28th, Saints innocents day.

    It has already being said that during the Saturnalia it was customary the exchange of social roles and rules, well, to make matters worst, the Romans had another ritual.


    This one consisted in selecting among the humblest members of the house the so called “Saturnalicius princeps”, that is, the Saturnalia king, who were granted the right to perform all kinds of misdeeds.


    And That’s the reason why nowadays, every December 28th we become a little Roman by giving us license to play pranks and mischief, so those little social tension would be relaxed too.

    This festivity is also known as April fools, “le poisson d’avril” in France…


    As far as I am concerned, you can see that if we put in a blender some of the components of the Saturnalia, along with other pagan traditions like the one already mentioned about the Christmas tree and we make them up with Christian rituals as well as adding some more, we have as a result the way we celebrate currently Christmas time … What do you think?

  • Spicy Christmas carols sung in Jerez

    Christmas carol sheet music

    Now that the Jerez zambomba is a must, propitiated especially since in 2015 when it was recognized of Cultural Interest, we have to speak about the lyrics of some carols (those songs repeated over and over again to the sound of the zambomba, the guitar, the tambourines and the palms)

    In Jerez you can hear the traditional classical carols to the sound of rumba and bulerías, those with a serious and dramatic tone of slow flow, and finally, the jolly and scandalous ones that provoke laughter in their swings or in their ingenious endings.

    Spicy carols lyrics in Christmas?

    Middle ages.

    Since I was a child and began to understand Christmas, I was always struck by the contrast between the carols that joyfully announce the birth of Jesus and speak about the manger, Mary and Joseph, the mule and the ox, the fish in the river, the bells of Bethlehem, the drummer and his humble drum… And those with lyrics that tell of humorous events known by all the citizens of the villages…

    And it is not surprising given the pagan origin of Christmas that the lyrics of these carols began to sound in the middle ages (some Jerez historians point out that approximately a quarantine of them date from the 13th-14th centuries)

    Minstrels and their numerous travels would be responsible for expanding these satirical fables or sung stories, funny, torrid or charged with strong criticism of the clergy, without any censorship, using these words freely and deliberately, today’s gruesome, that once conformed more naturally our usual way of speaking.

    Let’s go with some examples… (must be translated into english…)

    About priests…

    Estando un curita: (Once there was a priest…)

    Estando un curita malito en la cama, a la medianoche llama a la criada.

    -Qué quieres curita que tanto me llamas.

    -Quiero chocolate y no tengo agua.

    -El pozo es “mu jondo” la soga no alcanza.

    -Toma este pedazo añádele una cuarta.

    Estando en el pozo le picó una araña. Le picó con gusto, le picó con ganas. Y a los siete meses la barriga hinchada. Y a los nueve meses parió la criada. Y parió un curita con capa y sotana.

    Y el cura le dice:

    -le pondremos un ama.

    Y ella le contesta:

    -no me da la gana. Que tengo dos tetas como dos tinajas.

    Y al año siguiente también parió el ama. Y parió un curita con capa y sotana.

    El cura no va a la iglesia: (The priest doesn’t go to church)

    El cura no va a la iglesia dice la niña ¿por qué? porque no tiene zapatos zapatos yo le daré.

    Los zapatos gurripatos con su hebilla y su tacón.

    Ora por nobis, Kirie leison, Santa María Madre de Dios.

    El cura no va a la iglesia dice la niña ¿por qué? porque no tiene sotana sotana yo le daré.

    La sotana larga y llana, los zapatos gurripatos con su hebilla y su tacón.

    Ora por nobis, Kirie leison, Santa María Madre de Dios.

    El cura no va a la iglesia dice la niña ¿por qué? porque no tiene camisa camisa yo le daré.

    La camisa larga y lisa la sotana larga y llana, los zapatos gurripatos con su hebilla y su tacón

    Ora por nobis, Kirie leison, Santa María Madre de Dios.

    El cura no va a la iglesia dice la niña ¿por qué? porque no tiene bonete bonete yo le daré.

    El bonete saca y mete, la camisa larga y lisa, la sotana larga y llana, los zapatos gurripatos con su hebilla y su tacón

    Ora por nobis, Kirie leison, Santa María Madre de Dios.

    The illnesses of Michaela

    Estando la Micaela sentadita en su balcón le ha dado una fatiga y llamaron al doctor.

    Que dale, que toma que azúcar y canela que no hay quién le dé con el mal a la Micaela.

    Le puso el doctor la mano en la frente y dijo Micaela: ay doctor que estoy caliente.

    Que dale, que toma que azúcar y canela que no hay quién le dé con el mal a la Micaela.

    Le puso el doctor la mano en la boca y dijo Micaela: ay doctor que me vuelvo loca.

    Que dale, que toma que azúcar y canela que no hay quién le dé con el mal a la Micaela.

    Le puso el doctor la mano en el pecho y dijo Micaela: por ahí se va derecho

    Que dale, que toma que azúcar y canela que no hay quién le dé con el mal a la Micaela.

    Le puso el doctor la mano en el ombligo y dijo Micaela: por ahí me voy contigo

    Que dale, que toma que azúcar y canela que no hay quién le dé con el mal a la Micaela.

    Le puso el doctor la mano en la rodilla y dijo Micaela: ay doctor que me hace cosquillas

    Que dale, que toma que azúcar y canela que no hay quién le dé con el mal a la Micaela.

    Le puso el doctor la mano en la ingle y dijo Micaela: por ahí corre la pringue.

    Que dale, que toma que azúcar y canela que no hay quién le dé con el mal a la Micaela.

    Le puso el doctor la mano en el chichi y dijo micaela: ahí, ahí, ahí.

    Saint Francis street

    Calle de San Francisco qué larga y serena, tiene cuatro farolas y bien merecías y bien merecías

    los cañones, los cañones de la artillería, y enfrente un castillo donde hombres,

    donde hombres, mujeres y niños debían de estar. ¡Calla lengua, calla lengua y no hables más!

    Muchas con el achaque de tomar el fresco, se asoman a la ventana y con gran contento.

    Su madre las llama: Mariquilla, Mariquilla cierra la ventana.

    -Ya voy mamá, que estoy viendo, que estoy viendo la gente pasar.

    Y era porque estaba con el novio, con el novio pelando la pava.

    Estando yo en mi puerta y con otras dos pasó un marinerito y me preguntó dónde está la plaza.

    Yo le dije, yo le dije con mucha cachaza: Vuelva usté la esquina, calle de Medina, Calle Doña Blanca, derechito, derechito sale usté a la plaza donde venden pan y también molletes. Cuidaíto, cuidaíto con aquella gente que roban pañuelos y la bolsa y la bolsa que lleva el dinero.

    The little sailor ramiré…

    Estando un marinerito ramiré (bis), en su divina fragata ramiré pom pom porompompom en su divina fragata.

    Al tiempo de echar la vela ramiré (bis), el marinero fue al agua ramiré pom pom porompompom

    el marinero fue al agua.

    Se le presenta el demonio ramiré (bis), diciéndole estas palabras ramiré pom pom porompompom

    diciéndole estas palabras.

    ¿Qué me das marinerito? ramiré (bis), si te saco de estas aguas ramiré pom pom porompompom

    si te saco de estas aguas.

    Por allí viene mi barco ramiré (bis), cargado de oro y plata ramiré pom pom porompompom

    cargado de oro y plata.

    Yo no quiero tus riquezas ramiré (bis), yo lo que quiero es tu alma ramiré pom pom porompompom

    yo lo que quiero es tu alma.

    Mi alma no te la doy ramiré (bis), que se la tengo prestada ramiré pom pom porompompom

    que se la tengo prestada.

    Mi alma es para mi Dios ramiré (bis), y María inmaculada ramiré pom pom porompompom

    y María Inmaculada.

    Y aquí se acaba la historia ramiré (bis), y el marinero fue al agua ramiré pom pom porompompom

    y el marinero fue al agua.

    You can tell the contrast about jolly Christmas and these carols, right? Do you happen to know some carols out of the ordinary? Please, share your comments.

  • Sweet Christmas…

    Typical Christmas sweets.

    Already seen the tree and the Nativity Scene themes, now it is time to warm our stomachs and sweeten Christmas with the typical gastronomy of the holidays.

    Given that the aim of Christmas is to celebrate it in company , every good gathering is celebrated since immemorial times around a table with good delicacies to the delight of the palates.

    So let’s start with the origins…

    Moorish taste Christmas

    The moorish market.

    As we know, the Al-Andalus eight centuries of splendor have penetrated deeply into Andalusian cities, villages and towns, so it is not surprising that many of our delicious Christmas products come from their culture.

    If we want to make them, we will need to get the traditional basic ingredients of its pastries, such as almonds, sesame, matalahúva, honey, cinnamon…

    Already in Christian times, thanks to the proliferation of convents, these delicacies elaborated by the nuns by then, were extended throughout the Peninsula.

    Let’s get down to business.

    The Alfajor, from Medina

    To speak of alfajor means speaking about this beautiful white town in the province mountains, Medina Sidonia, where the Arabs began to elaborate the “al-hasú”, called by the Christians “alaju”, which translated into Spanish means “stuffing.”

    The name gives us a good clue already, since the alfajor is a roll covered with syrup, sugar and cinnamon whose “filling” is made from almonds, hazelnuts, flour, breadcrumbs, coriander, cloves, matalahúva, sesame and cinnamon.

    Traditionally the alfajor was consumed by the peasants as an energy bar in the midday break to recover strength quickly… So when you end up your work out at the gym or need a boost of energy, leave the sandwich aside and eat a alfajor of Medina, a pleasure that nourishes taste and body.

    The Pestiños

    Our Lady of Grace convent pestiños.

    These squares of dough joined by two sides, is made with flour, oil, sugar, anise, matalahúva, lemon peel and white wine (or a good glass of sherry wine)

    Once the dough is made, it is cut and shaped. Then, carefully so they don’t get unfolded, they are fried in olive oil and let cool. The next step is to mould the pestiños, envolve them with honey, and then they’re ready for decoration as you prefer, either with sugar or colored anise balls. If this last step doesn’t motivate you, skip it and enjoy them alone with honey.

    In the past, women of the several families living in the same palatial house that once belonged to a noble family, gathered in the kitchen of one of them to make kilos and kilos of pestiños, in order to keep the voices, guitars, zambombas and tambourines active during the numerous zambombas.

    The Turron

    Withe turron.

    Let’s continue the Andalusian tradition with another of the sweets that originally combined nuts with honey presented in a flat and rectangular shape. Its name comes from the Catalan language «torró», which comes from the Latin «torrere», meaning, roasting or toasting.

    The turron is one of those Christmas desserts that have evolved over the years, currently finding a wide variety, from the traditional hard and soft, through chocolate flavor, toasted yolk, marzipan, “gourmet”…

    We must highlight the famous soft turron of Jijona, mande in Alicante, Spain, where it seems to begin its elaboration according to written sources by the 16th century, although it could be earlier, as this legend of the king and the Scandinavian princess points out…

    Once upon a time a king married a beautiful Scandinavian princess. The lady, had to leave her cold lands in order to to be with her husband, which was not easy because as the days passed by she began to miss terribly the beautiful landscapes of her country covered with the eternal snow. The king, realizing the sadness that harbored the heart of his princess, had the idea of planting thousands of almond trees throughout his territories so that, when flowering, the landscape imitates the white tones that his beloved longed for. As the beautiful Scandinavian princess witnessed such a spectacle, was finally able to regain happiness. And so was how the inhabitants of Jijona gathered the fruits of the almonds and began to elaborate the turron that made them so famous.

    Traditional Jijona turron contains egg white and sugar in addition to honey and almonds. As a curious fact, later on they began to pack them in poplar wooded boxes, to protect it from moisture and eliminate the excess oil originated by the almonds. No doubt, good presentation for such an exquisite delicacy.

    By the 18th century proliferated the sale of Christmas turron and with popularity came also the search for new formulas and flavors that gave rise to the great variety to which I referred before.

    Polvoron and Mantecado

    Polvoron and Mantecado

    We have talked about Medina, Jijona and now we have to focus on the town of Estepa in Malaga, where the abundance of lard gave rise to this typical Christmas sweet, also dated back to the 16th century. Flour, sugar and almonds are also needed. The dough is baked and hardened, although when we taste the bite, the powder melts into dust, hence its name.

    It’s important not to confuse polvoron and mantecado. Although its presentation is similar, it is not the same… Polvorón differs from mantecado because it contains ground almonds in different proportions and more flour. The mantecado, on the other hand, can have almonds or not, and we can find flavours like chocolate, lemon, cinnamon…

    The Roscos

    Roscos.

    Here we have another sweet of Islamic roots for which we use many of the ingredients already mentioned like sugar, oil, lemon zest, sesame, flour… In addition to these, we need orange peel or juice, milk, anise and egg.

    Once the dough is ready, this time we cut it and give it circular shape, donut, hence its name. Then we fry them, and finally we cover them with sugar and cinnamon.

    For the famous wine roscos, a glass of white wine is added to the dough (if you’re in Jerez, you already know what wine to add…)

    Mazapán

    Mazapan figurines.

    Although the mazapán is made all over Europe, surely we knew the recipy from Arab hands. It is said that the word mazapan comes from the Arabic «manthában», the container where the almond paste was kept. Another version states that it comes from the Latin «panis martius» or April’s bread, because the mixture was used during the Christian Easter celebrations.

    Once here we have to move to Toledo, where legend points to the nuns of San Clemente as their first producers.

    It is said that after the Battle of Toulouse, wars, drought and epidemics had depopulated the fields and ravaged the villages. The famine was so pressing that the nuns of San Clemente, gathering the petitions of the parishioners, fervently begged their Patron Saint to help them to remedy such a terrible famine. The continuous nuns prayers caused that the intricacies of the divine delicacy were delivered from the sky in secret. At the beginning it was considered as a luxury product, but the nuns found a way to cut costs and provide holy remedy for the starving population. The remedy was said to have come as bread from heaven, from which some claim to derive its present name.

    For its preparation, identical quantities of raw and peeled almonds are mixed and crushed with sugar, until a uniform mass is obtained. Before starting the entertaining work of shaping the figurines, the dough should cool. Finally the figurines are baked.

    Cadiz bread

    Cadiz bread.

    As the icing on the cake, we couldn’t miss this cherished delicacy of “Cadi Cadi” ladies and gentlemen….

    the origins of this bread would be never really known given the tendecy of telling legend, facts and inventive resources of the citizens, although the history points it towards the 19th century.

    The romantic legend tells that when the French wanted to invade the city by throwing with bad aim the famous bombs with which the Gaditanas made themselves hair corkscrews, the monks mocked the French and the Pepa constitution began her adventures, the siege of the enemy prevented the arrival of goods, which made the wheat scarce, so they chose to use almond instead, which gave rise to the sweet. Apparently, the almond surplus came from the Customs Palace, where they were stored pending export (this legend sounds to me like the French omelet one…)

    To make the bread of Cadiz, starting with the mazapan dough, one form a medium-sized loaf filled with candied fruit. The final step is to baked it, hence it is now better known as Cádiz bread than as turron of Cádiz, its original name.

    Knowing that there are many more, that’s all for now. I encourage you now to share your tastes, opinions and traditions. As you know, I’d love to read you in the comments.

  • Setting the nativity scene

    Christmas’ nativity scene

    I continue talking about Christmas elements and ornaments and now it is the turn of the nativity scene, that crib in Bethlehem that usually accompanies the Christmas tree in our homes.

    As the time goes by, the human creativity has made possible that the simple nativity scene composed by baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph has transformed into an extensive nativity scene including figurines of all kinds and even engineering works covering the events of the whole city of Bethlehem, even illustrating by sections from the odyssey that Mary and Joseph went through until the birth of the Christ until the adoration of the wise men, some of them go even further in time though, covering the flight to Egypt…

    But let’s go back to where this Christmas tradition comes from.

    He was born in a stable…

    The stable

    The word manger derives from the Latin “praesepium”, an expression used around 350 AD by Saint Jerome in his Biblical translation (the Vulgate)

    Likewise, “praesepium” derives from “prae-sepas”, possibly related to the Greek “phate”, which describes the concavity where cattle feed is deposited.

    First signs

    The Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. Capella Greca of Saint Priscilla catacombs, Rome.

    It seems that the first testimonies of the Nativity dates from the second century. In the catacombs of Santa Priscilla in Rome one can find the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary with the Holy Child.

    From the 4th and 5th centuries we can highlight the proliferation of these types of images sculpted in sarcophagi, being of special mention the construction similar to the grotto of Bethlehem ordered to be raised by Pope Sixtus III after reconverting the early Christian church of the fourth century (the Liberian Basilica) in a temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This example dates from 432 and is found in Santa Maria Maggiore oratory in Rome.

    Later on, in the Middle Ages, Christmas motifs began to be sculpted in capitals and doorways of cloisters, monasteries, abbeys and temples, to educate and teach the people about Sacred History.

    Special devotion to the Birth of Jesus is expressed by the Order of the knights Templars, who encouraged and promulgated the worship of Jesus and the Holy Sepulchre.

    The belenism

    Greccio’s crib. 1295-1299. Giotto. Asisi’s Mayor basilica. Italy.

    If we had to put a date and name to this tradition, this would be December 25, 1223, and this one, Pietro Bernardone known as San Francesco d’Assisi (Saint Francis of Asisi)

    Saint Francis had a revelation due to his visit through Holy Land first and then Rome, where he marveled at the mosaics of the Birth of Jesus of Saint Mary the Major church (right next to the place where, tradition point out the location of true splinters from the original manger)

    15 days before the aforementioned date, our protagonist contacted a citizen of Greccio called Giovanni to help him to materialize his vision: “I wish to celebrate the memory of the Holy Child who was born in Bethlehem and I want to contemplate somehow with my eyes what he suffered in his invalidity as a Child, how he was reclined in the manger and how he was placed on hay between the ox and the donkey.” So Giovanni started right away to work on the idea in the same place pointed out by the friar.

    The agreed day came to Greccio friars and nuns from various places and orders together with the locals, carrying flowers and torches to illuminate that divine night, discovering with great fascination the scene of the beautiful “presepre”, continued by a mass celebration, to emphasize the link between the incarnation of God the Father in Jesus and the Holy Eucharist.

    But what was that nativity scene like? Well, they say that the representation lacked figurines but baby Jesus, the scene was covered with hay and the ox and an ass were also present.

    The inmediate expansion

    Saint Giovanni Carborana’s crib. Naples.

    Saint Francis of Assisi embodied heavenly vision caused such an impact that it was carried out first to the Italian “duoms”, and afterwards to all European churches. _There’s a good example in the Duomo di Volterra, carved by the sculptor Andrea della Robbia.

    Probably, the oldest nativity scene preserved was found in San Giovanni Carbonara church, in Naples, formed by wooden figurines dated in the 14th century (we can see them nowadays in San Martino’s museum)

    Already in the 16th century, it seems ti be started the tradition of setting up the nativity scene only at Christmas time, as documented around 1562 in the Jesuits church in Prague.

    And finally, by the same century, in 1567,we can speak about the first nativity scene own by a family. It was property of the Duchess of Amalfi, counting with 107 figures, a mixture of evangelical and other anonymous characters.

    The baroque, the final boost

    Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Giuseppe Sanmartino.

    It’s easy to imagine that, the baroque, the most decorative style, propelled the propagation of the nativity scene.

    In the 18th century, talented artists like Damián Campeny, Giuseppe Sanmartino, Francisco Salzillo and Bernardo Legarda left their particular mark on the art of Belenism.

    Belenism in Spain

    Neapolitan crib. Royal Palace. Madrid

    In our country, it was King Carlos III to give the final push to the tradition, making available a large room of the Madrid Royal Palace to organize a nativity scene so that it could be visited by anyone.

    As in Italy the nativity scenes proliferated in the sixteenth century, in Spain we were not left behind, since the oldest Spanish nativity scene dates from 1536, and is located in the Balearic Islands, specifically in the Annunciation church of Palma de Mallorca (known as La Sang)

    First Spanish nativity scene legend

    De la Sang nativity scene. Palma de Mallorca. Spain

    Yes, the first nativity scene in the Iberian Peninsula has a legend!

    Once upon a time… a ship departed from Italy carrying on board the seven Marian mysteries figurines. The ship captained by Domingo Gangonne, at a certain point during the voyage, was involved in a tremendous storm, so badly that it was very close to sinking it. The captain, as a good sailor leader, promised to deliver one of the seven Marian mysteries carried on board in exchange for salvation.

    The promise made to the Divine took effect and the ship was delivered from death, being illuminated by a light, the one from the lamp of Our Snow Lady, eternally lit up from the convent of Our Angels or Jesus Lady, located on Palma island, the same convent that would later host the Majorcan friar who evangelized California, Fray Junípero Serra.

    The monks noticed during their morning prayers and meditations the battered ship approaching them, and immediately ran towards the ship to help the crew.

    Once they were saved, Domingo Gangonne wanted to fulfilled his promises and agreed with a prior to choose one of the Marian mysteries, being chosen the one of the Nativity.

    Curiously the captain was not enthusiastic about the election, but rather the opposite and refused to gave the prior what he asked for. Instead, Gargonne set an ultimatum to the prior: to choose some other or none. After a pointless argument, the captain decided to set sail as soon as the sea was calm, but when he tried to set out, the ship didn’t move. Without doubt, he was being punished from above for not fulfilling his promise, so he had to accept the deal and give the mystery of the Nativity to the prior as first requested, no choice but to yield and leave in the convent the precious art work.

    That supernatural event was responsible for the great devotion for the extraordinary Gothic figures attributed to Alamanno’s workshop, very well recognized sculptors of the oldest Neapolitan nativity scenes of the 15 century.

    Well, now it’s your turn to share, what’s your nativity scene like? Are you one of those who go to detail or those who put the crib without missing a thing? I will love to read your comments.

  • The Christmas tree

    Christmas tree

    The most seen tree in December

    The Christmas tree is a must element in Christmas holidays. It’s that main element that welcomes us in homes and cities, always present in the most important places to announce that the time of year when we meet to celebrate with family, friends, neighbors and beloved ones has come, days of sharing joy, illusion and magic.

    Trees are majestic, medium or small size; artificial or real; minimalist in decoration or baroquish with thousands of colored or monochromatic lights… In terms of Christmas trees, mind you, there’s no accounting for taste.

    Nowadays setting the tree by the end of the year is something in our bones, but… Have we ever wondered why we do all this for?

    The origin of the Christmas tree: arrival of the Christians to the north of Europe for the first time. Saint Boniface.

    Saint Boniface cutting the Sacred tree.

    The inhabitants of northern Europe celebrated the birth of Frey, god of the sun and fertility, around Christmas date.

    To receive Frey, they adorned a non-evergreen tree symbolizing the tree of the Universe, known as Yggdrasil, the tree of life. At the top of the tree there was Asgard, the abode of the gods; and Valhalla, the palace of Odin. Further down, at the deepest roots, was Helheim, the realm of the dead.

    Well, it is said that Saint Boniface (680-754), evangelizer of Germany, once he arrived in northern Europe, cut with his axe the tree that represented the Yggdrasil, planting in its place a pine, perennial tree, symbol of eternal love of God, and decorated it with apples and candles, to remember the temptations and the original sin and the Light of the world, Jesus Christ.

    Over time, apples and candles were transformed into spheres, lights and other ornaments and later, the tradition of putting gifts for children under the tree, sent by Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus and Santa Claus, or the Three Wise Men, depending on the customs of the place.

    Another legend in Estonia says…

    Other sources place the first Christmas tree as we know it in Tallinn (Estonia) around 1441.

    The legend in question concerns a tree located in the main square of the town around which a single merchant man began to dance in the company of several women who ended up setting fire to the tree. The event, far from being catastrophic, incited the custom of lighting fir trees by Christmas.

    The first Christmas tree in Spain and a Russian princess

    Portrait of the Russian princess Sofía Troubetzkoy.

    Paradoxically, the first person to set a Christmas tree in Spain was Russian and widow of a half-brother of Napoleon himself.

    The Russian princess Sophia Troubetzkoy, remarried to the Spanish aristocrat, politician and military José Osorio in 1869. During their first Christmas together in their Alcañice palace, (today’s disappeared,) the princess asked to install a decorated fir tree. Without a doubt, all the visitors received by the couple in the palace, promoted the tradition of placing the Christmas tree in the houses.

    Christmas tree decoration and symbology

    Christmas tree ornaments.

    Although the list of ornaments to beautify and dress the tree is endless nowadays, those are some of the ones that continue to last in time:

    • The star. The star crowns the tree as a symbol of faith, which must guide the Christian, just as the Star of Bethlehem guided the three wise man and shepherds to the manger.
    • The sphere. They replace the temptation apple imposed by Saint Boniface, to represent the gifts that God grants to men.
    • Bonds. Symbol of family union and loved ones.
    • Lights. Initially candles to represent the light of Christ.
    • Horseshoe. Object related to good luck.
    • Pineapple. Sign of immortality and family unity.
    • Bells. To announce Christmas good news
    • Angels. Guides and heralds of the birth of Jesus Christ. They can swarm the entire tree or preside over the cusp replacing the star.
    • Other elements related to Christmas traditions: snowflakes, drums, trumpets, Christmas cookies, Christmas sticks, snowmen…

      More curiosities…

      • It reminds us of the tree of Paradise, from whose fruits Adam and Eve ate and, therefore, that Jesus Christ has become the promised Messiah for reconciliation.
      • It symbolizes the offspring and the bud of the Tree of Jesse, Jesus Christ, the summit of the prophecies.
      • The triangular shape represents the Holy Trinity.
      • The prayers that are performed during Advent are differentiated by colors: blue for the prayers of reconciliation, silver for the prayers of thanks, gold for the prayers of praise, green for the prayers of abundance, strength and nature.
      • The color of the lights also have their meaning: red represents fire and blood, love and generosity. Green, hope, nature and life. White purity, joy and faith. Gold prosperity and wealth.

        How many things said from a simple tree, right? Surely next time you get to work on the tree decoration, after reading all this information, it may be different.

        If you want to share how you decorate your tree, I’d love to read it!