Buying Christmas presents in Spain

get ready to smile!

I’m in Spain right now and I thought I’d send you a letter. I’m here for two reasons — first of all the warmer weather plus I wanted to miss the frantic Christmas build up that takes over almost every shop in the UK from September onwards.

We bought our little house here about eight or nine years ago and there’s never been a single day that I regretted spending our hard earned savings in that way.

However 25th December is looming so I need to buy some presents to bring home for the family. So, list in hand I optimistically travel 50 kilometres along the coast to the nearest equivalent of a large shopping centre, which for the past week has been trying to appeal to northern Europeans in the local newspaper.

The Spanish celebrate Christmas in a small way having no doubt been influenced by the influx of tourists over the past 50 years, but traditionally they have their big celebrations on the 6th January when the Three Kings arrive.

I park the car at the shopping centre and you know how you get those days when nothing goes to plan? Well little did I know that this was about to turn into one of them.

The minute I stepped through the open doors of the shopping centre a well-dressed lady accosted me and asked me in Spanish whether I had a funeral plan! Well it wasn’t quite what I was expecting and I honestly felt that maybe I needed a makeover and a new hairstyle …plus a few years knocked off my age.

She wasn’t going to give up. Oh no. Once she realised that I was English [and I always thought I had a good Spanish accent — another myth blown] she switched to my native language.

“Ah …you English. You need funeral plan before it is too late. Anything could happen. You here. Friends and family there. You need to think of funeral. You need to think now.”

Well by now I thought I must have looked as though I was dying and the optimistic balloon of a nice day shopping began to deflate. The shops although bright and dressed for Christmas were lacking in atmosphere and customers. There must have been no more than a few dozen shoppers in the entire complex.

I bought two presents. Yes only two — a blouse and a packet of socks. Socks! I know. Sorry it’s not very imaginative is it, but I was thinking more about the grim reaper than Santa Claus by this point.

Home again and late afternoon having put my precious two presents in the suitcase, I sat to read the local English newspaper. I noticed that at 8 pm that evening one of the nearby inland villages was putting on a ‘Christkindlemärkte/Sunny Christmas Event’.

Well that was what it said but they couldn’t mean ‘sunny’ in the normal sense since the time difference between Spain and the UK is only one hour. At this time of year the sun likes to go to bed early just as it does in England.

Anyway the advert claimed that there’d be Christmas stalls where one could buy presents for all friends and family. They also offered hot mince pies and mulled wine plus glühwein served in a festive mug that had been designed just for 2015.

Sounded as though this could be the answer to my present buying problem with a rather nice bit of alcoholic jollity thrown in. Added to which the advert said the local choir would be singing carols in the market square and a band would be coming all the way from Murcia to accompany them.

The clincher was the snow. Yes I did say snow. I had to read the advert twice. As I’m sure you know Spain does get snow, quite a lot of it, especially the mountainous regions of the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada which are well-known skiing destinations in the winter.

Where I live the weather is much more temperate and the area in which the Sunny Christmas Event was going to take place was a little nearer to the interior region of Spain and they normally have wet, cold winters. Snow? Not that I know about.

Then I noticed the small print. The snow was to be generated by a snowmaking machine. Wey-hey I’ve never stood under snow made by a machine. Would it be a state-of-the art computer controlled machine I wondered or a little man holding a snow gun as people passed by?

I chuckled to myself at the last thought …I shouldn’t have.

Half past eight saw me buying a few presents in the Market Square. Yes there were Christmas stalls. Yes, hot mince pies were in abundance, plenty of mulled wine was available and some rather delicious German glühwein. The choir did its best; they even sang some carols in German, French, and English as well as Spanish. Hats off to them: would we do that in England just for the foreigners?

But — Snow? I’m afraid not. It was announced that the snow machine had broken down. I wondered whether the little man with the snow gun just hadn’t turned up.

The band all the way from Murcia? No. Apparently they were needed last minute at a wedding. Who get’s married ‘last minute’ nowadays I wonder?

Anyway it didn’t matter. I had a nice evening and what’s more I solved almost three quarters of my Christmas presents headache and I didn’t even have to resort to buying more socks.

I hope you have a lovely Christmas, I think I’m going to enjoy mine but I’m not sure about the person who is about to get a gift of socks from Santa.

December on the Costa Blanca
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