The holiday season started long before my December 23 departure date, so I was still able to experience and learn a great deal about how Spain celebrates Christmas. Being a Catholic country (Wikipedia puts it at 76% Catholic), the politically correct mentality of the U.S. that acknowledges all religious holidays of the season does not exist in Spain. My class of teenagers had never heard of Hanukkah, and I didn't even try Kwanzaa or Ramadan.
Spain does Christmas, and they do it well. Take a look at Málaga:
|Poinsettias, or flores de pascua, are all over the city|
Some of the highlights of my holiday season in Spain:
- Teaching lessons using my favorite Christmas movie: the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I stopped the movie every few minutes to ask questions and make sure the class was comprehending. I knew I got through to them when, in the scene when the Grinch realizes the true meaning of Christmas, one of my kids exclaimed "¡Él tiene corazón!"
- Teaching my first grade classes to sing "White Christmas." (Sorry for the horrible picture quality, I had to save it in a smaller file size to upload. I'll try a different one later)
- The staff Christmas lunch at work, and all the teachers singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to me when I had to leave. Hardly any of them speak English, but they all know the song.
Just two days shy of Christmas I finally worked my last day and went home (after a few nerve-wracking days worrying about flights and whether or not I would ever make it through the blizzards in Europe and on the east coast). I spent two lovely weeks at home visiting friends and family and eating copious amounts of the food and I deprived of in Spain. The number one item on the menu: Mexican food. My Christmas dinner consisted of homemade salsa, enchiladas, re-fried beans, and Mexican rice. When left-overs disappeared a few days later my Mom and I made more.
Going home for that short visit was just what I needed. When any little thing made me homesick the last few months, having that trip to look forward to put my mind at ease. It was a little pick-me-up, but coming back to Spain was still bittersweet.
Rolling my suitcase from the bus stop to my apartment felt like coming back home, but I was also leaving home. I didn't realize until leaving Málaga that this feels like home too. I have friends, a job, and an apartment here. I have two different places, a world away from each other, that I call home. When I am in Spain, I sometimes long for California. But when I was back there, I found myself missing Spain. I just finished reading a book called All Over the Map by Laura Fraser (which I highly recommend) and she sums it up pretty well: "It's not that the grass is greener, it's that you can never be on both sides of the lawn."
I may get frustrated sometimes at not being able to be on both sides of the lawn at the same time, but I asked for this, and I got it. I took great measures to make this happen, to come to Spain, get a job, and start a life here, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'm just learning that there are prices to be paid for getting exactly what you wanted.