- Typical Spanish... Picturesque Carnivals in Spain
- Featured City... Carnivals of Alicante
- Famous Person... Luis Buñuel
- Spanish Recipe... Orejas de Carnaval (Galicia)
- Popular saying... "No hay carnaval sin cuaresma" (There is no carnival without Lent)
- Vocabulary... Carnival vocabulary
- Word of the month... Carnaval
- Notices... 100 € off on sports and extension of the 10% off promotion on General Intensive courses
Picturesque Carnivals in Spain
Given that February is the Carnival month, we shouldn’t let the opportunity to talk to you about how it is celebrated in our country pass by. But this year we will be a bit more original. We already know what happensa at the Cadiz or Tenerife Carnivals, so we are going to showcase some Carnivals that are a bit out of the norm.
We start by the Galician town of Laza, in Orense. There, it takes place the "Farrapada", an act which consists in hitting with mud-stained cloth and sheets all those unaware passerbys at the town’s main square. On the afternoon of the same day, there is the so-called "La Morena’s walkabout": this character is one of the locals who, disguised with a bull’s head, chases the local women while a group of goons throws sand with ants to the assistants to the spectacle. This seems to be an old tradition hailing from the Middle Ages and, as you can imagine, it is not suitable for those who don’t have a taste for pranks.
The search for another little known tradition takes us to Arrecife, in Lanzarote (Canary Islands), and its main characters are the fishermen that let the bigger fish’s bladders dry to inflate them and then make all the noise they by using them as a percussion instrument.
Talking about fish... you surely have heard about the "Burial of the Sardine" (Entierro de la sardina in Spanish), a satiric tradition with which the Carnival comes to an end; but if you visit Villar del Arzobispo (Valencia) you will find that the object buried there is.... a black pudding (morcilla)! Of course, it is also escorted by people in mourning.
In Pontevedra they don’t bury a sardine either, but the image of a parrot called "Ravachol". This bird really existed, and was dubbed "The most famous parrot in the world" during the 19th century; it was the pet of a local pharmacist. It was so cherished because of its commentaries and wit that the whole city mourned it when it died.
From the mourning black to the nuptial white: in Toro, Zamora (Castile and Leon), a curious rite repeats itself on Carnival Sunday since the 16th century: many couples dressed up in an old-fashioned manner walk about the city’s streets simulating a wedding. The couple heading the committee is that of the wedding couple, that can be played by an already wed couple.
Love is also the protagonist of the Carnival of Santoña (Cantabria); although not in a romantic fashion this time, but a trial of a poor sea bream that fell in love with one of the mermaid daughters of the god Neptune. The party serves as an excuse to showcase the excellent sea products of the town.
In some way, gastronomy is also the star of our next destination. The children of Vilanova i la Geltru, in the province of Barcelona (Catalonia), engage in a meringue that takes place every Thursday of Carnival. This custom was born in 1972, when a local pastry cook let the children play with an enormous meringue cake that he had prepared to advertise his establishment.
Another battle, this time between good and evil, occurs in Lantz (Navarre). There takes place a battle between the evil bandit Mikel Otxin –represented by a giant figure with its arms crossed- and Ziripot –the strongest neighbour in the village, whose outfit is made out of sacks of fern-. The celebration commemorates the capture of a real bandit that terrified the place a long, long time ago.
In Bielsa, Huesca (Aragón) there is a curious "battle of the sexes". While the young men chase the children disguised as demons with horns and goat furs, the young ladies dress up in white and decorate their dresses with colored ribbons. Both sides engage in a dance that stages the battle of lust against purity.
We could dedicate many more pages to other peculiar carnivals, but unfortunately we have no more time and our space is short. We only want to invoke your sense of adventure and your capacity to be surprised to keep investigating. You will find many curious, fun and fascinating destinations.
During the days of the Carnival everyone from the smallest village to the biggest city of our country is celebrating. Alicante is not an exception, although it is true that its Carnival is not as well known as that of other regions of Spain. Nevertheless, maybe this is one of its attractions: we won’t find so many tourists around or overcrowded events.
The party begins on the ""Dijous de Gras" (Jueves Lardero, in Spanish). The night of that day happens the "Arribada del Momo", a parade in which the main character is the "Carnival king", to whom the city’s keys are given. It represents the metaphoric cession of the government of the city to fun and wildness. The monarch is accompanied by a "Correfoc" of funny jesting demons. This march ends at Plaza de Quijano, where a magnificent "salchichada" ("sausage fest") is offered in honor of don Carnal (remember that "carnal" comes from "meat").
The next day is known as "Divendres de Pregó" (Viernes de pregón, in Spanish) in which a group of people read a satiric edict on a current affairs subject or something more related to the festivities. One could say that this is the "official" start of the Carnival".
The celebration continues on the "Dissabte Ramblero". During this day there are activities for the children and a great fair on the Rambla de Méndez Nuñez with attractions and live performances.
People also have to take a rest from so much partying, so Sunday is a quiet day and with little partying going on (only some activities for children and the elderly). No wonder then that it has become known as "Hangover Sunday" ("Domingo de Resaca" in Spanish).
On Tuesday, everything is about to end. So, just before Lent (a time for fasting and withdrawal) Don Carnal is subject to a trial. He is accused of faults against the moral and is condemned to be dismembered –of course the judge is represented by a doll-. The trial ends in everyone’s knowledge that this punishment won’t be eternal, for don Carnal will come back next year.
The final act takes place on Ash Wednesday with the multitudinary "Burial of the sardine". Mourners and people dressed in black escort the procession of this fish up to the Plaza del Carmen, where it is incinerated. This carnival ends here, but not with sorrow, but with the promises of new celebrations in the following year.
Have you liked it? We hope that this story catches your attention and you visit Alicante to enjoy these celebrations. But don’t worry if you don’t have time for it. When we realise it, it will already be February again and the Momo will come with it!
An iconoclast for some, a blasphemous for others, polemic for everyone and a person towards whom nobody remains indifferent... that was Luis Buñuel, one of the best movie directors not only in Spain, but in the whole world.
Buñuel was born in Calanda in 1900, a village in the province of Teruel (aragón), a son of the marriage of Leonardo Manuel Buñuel, a colon that got rich in Cuba, and María Portolés, a young lady whom Leonardo considered to be "the prettiest of the place".
The liberal and urban character of his father, tired of what he considered the "traditional atmosphere" of Calanda, took his family to Saragossa, although they still spent their summers at the village.
It was during one of these summers when Luis started to show his peculiar personality. It is told that he remained lost for more than a day with a group of friends who he took to the spookiest places of the village, from the cemetery to a dark cave where he played a prank on his fellows saying that he was offering himself in sacrifice to the monster that dwelled in the cave. It is also said that he played a game in which he gave Masses for his friends.
This imaginative, surrealist and iconoclast way of being was animated by an intellectual atmosphere at home that took him to read the works of Kropotkin, Nietzsche and Darwin in his teens. There was already a seed for the attitude of defying the established in him, but his complete blossom happened in Madrid, during his university years.
In the famous Residencia de Estudiantes he met kindred spirits like Federico García Lorca or Salvador Dalí. While there, he also realised that he didn’t want to be an agricultural engineer, and was more attracted towards art. He changed his studies for Philosophy and Literature studies, he frequented intellectual gatherings and –as couldn’t have been otherwise- moved to Paris.
During his stay there, he saw the movie "The three lights" by Fritz Lang, and was fascinated by the art of the celluloid. He didn’t have a single doubt, and offered himself as assistant for the director Jean Epstein, with whom he would make two films and leave one half-done because of an argument with him. The young Buñuel was already showing his strong character, which would stay with him for the rest of his life.
This vehement characteristic of his personality would take him to be active in the most "radical" section of surrealism. He would turn into a sort of "ambassador" of this artistic movement in Spain. He premiered some films that were very successful and would even impress great intellectuals like Ortega y Gasset, who confessed to Buñuel that "if he was young he would dedicate himself to the movies". While telling this anecdote to Dalí, the painter narrated a dream to him, which he considered that could be turned into a surrealist movie. In that moment they agreed to start working on what would become "Un chien andalou", a masterpiece of this genre.
The premiere of the movie had a great impact in Paris, which encouraged Buñuel even more to keep pursuing his film-making dream. Nevertheless, his relationship with Dalí, who was more focused on his own art, his eccentricities and his relationship with a "Gala", cooled down. He decided to continue alone and he directed "L’âge d’or", a controversial and polemic movie (when those two words had a meaning and were not a mere trend). Equally groundbreaking was his next movie, a realistic documentary called "Las Hurdes, Land without bread" in which he showed the misery of the poorest and most depressed area of Spain.
The capacity to tell any kind of story called the attention of Hollywood. But for the revolutionary Luis, the rules of the Mecca of cinema were too stiff and suffocating. The disillusion was also noticeable in his relationships with the surrealist circle and even with the intellectuals of his own country.
He didn’t direct a single movie for the next 14 years, although he remained in contact with the world of cinema either as a producer or as film conservator in the Museum of Modern Art of New York. In 1947 he moves to Mexico to direct the movie "Gran Casino", starring the singer Jorge Negrete and, even though the film was a commercial failure, the desire to direct hit him again. He understood that "to achieve something one has to be ready to lose a little", and reached an agreement with his Mexican producers according to which he could shoot a more "personal" movie every two "commercial" ones. This activity went on through the end of the 50’s and produced such titles as "The forgotten (aka The young and the damned)" or "Nazarin".
From the the 60’s on, and with a growing prestige, he would alternate work in Spain, France and Mexico. From this era are his best known films: "Viridiana" (1961, Spain), "Belle de jour" (1966, France) or "The exterminating angel" (1962, Mexico). This era of maximum recognition and creativity would span until 1977, the year in which he shoots his last film, called "That Obscure Object of Desire".
The last years of his life –he died in 1983- were almost an homage after another: the printing of his memoirs, an Honoris Causa doctorate from the University of Zaragoza, a retrospective on his work at the Centre Pompidou of Paris... These tributes continued happening after his passing, and the veneration towards his work continues nowadays. Truth is that it is a great achievement for someone whose life motto was "I wanted anything, except to please".
Orejas de Carnaval (Carnival ears) (Galicia)
In Spain there are typical Christmas, Easter and holiday recipes... and Carnival also has them! These "ears" are a proof of this. The funny thing is that they come from a place that is not commonly associated with this kind of celebration: Galicia.
Even though its name seems to refer to am meat product, we are actually referring to a sweet pastry. The name comes from their shape and color, which reminds us of fried pork ear (which are also very tasty, by the way).
This recipe has no complication at all, even though, as it normally happens with easy dishes, one requires a certain skill to prepare them. You will need two small eggs, a glass of anise or any type of liquor, 500 grams of flour, a pinch of salt, 100 grams of butter, lemon (or orange or tangerine) zest, 200 ml of lukewarm water, olive oil and icing sugar.
Before you start it is important to thoroughly clean the peel of the fruit of your choice (remember that some are polished with wax, which –although innocuous- may leave a strange taste in your mouth). Grate the peel and keep it aside.
Next, we pour lukewarm water in a recipient together with the salt, butter (previously melted), grated zest, sugar, liquor and eggs. We should knead this mixture until it is soft and a bit wet. The next step is leaving the paste rest for an hour.
After this time, we will take fragments of the dough of the size of a nutshell and we will extend it with a roller or a bottle until it is thin as paper.
It is now the time for frying the "ears": we put some water to boil on low heat until it is ready. How do we know when it is ready? An easy trick consists in throwing a small piece of dough and see if it turns brown. It this happens in less than 10 seconds, the oil is ready.
Next comes the time to be skilful: we have to fry the "ears" long enough for them to be brown and crunchy on both sides, and a bit hollow in the inside. We take them out of the fire, then, and wee place them over some kitchen paper to drench the excess of oil. Before they cool down, we sprinkle them with a bit of icing sugar and... it’s ready!
If you have a sweeter tooth, though, you can substitute the sugar topping for honey, but this presents a problem, which is that these "ears" could be mistaken with a similar sweet called "pestiño". So if you are thinking about preparing them for friends, we recommend you to stick to the traditional recipe. Because Carnival food is a very serious matter...
There is no Carnival without Lent
As you may probably already know, there are many sayings on the weather and the times of the year. This could be one of them, but it is so evident that the time for indulgence is followed by a time of penitence that there must be some hidden meaning to it.
And of course there is one: what this saying comes to signify is that an excessive or irresponsible attitude will bring us pain and disgrace in the future; a terrible saying that sounds more like a sentence than like a piece of advice.
Maybe it all comes from the tendency to believe in divine justice, and that destiny is the one in charge of putting us all in place, or that the human being is tending to evil. As you can see there is no conditional form, or a recommendation about how to avoid that "Lent". It is understood that any behaviour has consequences, and that is something as immutable and true as the dates of the calendar.
But, what if we turn it around? We could also say that "there is no Lent without a Carnival", and given that in the end this life is a valley of tears and penitence, we could perfectly indulge in some days of dissolute behaviour.
Anyway... this last thing is just a thought, so that you can see how much can a Spaniard stretch his thoughts around the meaning of a saying.
If you come to one of the many Carnivals taking place in Spain, you will sooner or later come across some of the words that we will show you next. Take note and prepare with us for the celebration!
- Antifaz (Mask): it is the type of mask that only covers your eyes and sometimes part of the nose. If you dress up as "The Lone Ranger" "Green Lantern" or "Spirit", you know what we are talking about.
- Careta (Mask): with this word we refer to a mask made of paper or cardboard which has a more naïve component, and less of a mysterious feel. We could say that a "careta" is more for the kids and the "antifaz" is more for grown-ups.
- Carnestolendas (Shrovetide): it is a synonym for the "cult" of the Carnival. It comes from the Latin words "carnis" (meat) and "tollendus" (to take off). Nowadays, it is a term of very rare usage, but it can be found on many classic literary works.
- Charanga: a reduced of musicians with wind and percussion instruments that usually interpret their satiric and roguish songs around the cities’ streets.
- Chirigota: famous because of the Carnival of Cadiz, they are choral groups that perform humoristic couplets (which, by the way, are also called "chirigotas"). Its components dress up according to the subject of the song they are singing.
- Comparsa: it is also a music group, but, unlike the chirigotas, the themes of their compositions are more serious or "artistic" and less humor-oriented.
- Confeti (confetti): small pieces of colored paper that are thrown in the air during the celebrations to accentuate the festive mood of them. If you haven’t thrown some confetti in your life, it means that you haven’t really enjoyed a party.
- Don Carnal: it is a character that represents an allegory of Carnival itself. Big-bellied, party animal, wild and sometimes mockingly lascivious, its greatest worry is to enjoy the party without thinking about tomorrow.
- Doña Cuaresma (Mrs. Lent): another allegoric character, opposed to Don Carnal. As you may know, Lent is a time for abstinence and penitence that precedes Easter; that’s why she is represented as a thin lady with a rough appearance that wears faded clothes in grey tones, or even a nun’s robe.
- Matasuegras: this terrible term (which literally means "what kills the mother of your wife or husband") is a name for a rolled paper tube that unfolds brusquely when someone blows through it and which is –supposedly- an instrument for startling people. We don’t know why it is so mortally effective with the in-laws.
- Matraca: it is a wooden or plastic instrument formed by a handle and a swivel that produces a disturbing and jarring sound. It seems funny that it is also very much used during Easter to call for prayer instead of the old church bells.
- Mojiganga: it may refer to two things; a type of short, humorous and grotesque theatre piece (which were very popular in the Golden Age of Spain), or a party in which the assistants wear ridicule dresses.
- Momo: We have already talked about him in the local festivity section, but we will now be more specific. The figure of Momo is what the Greek God of literature and poetry has come down to, as well as a personification of sarcasm and mockery. Many refer –wrongly- to him as a version of Don Carnal.
- Pelele (Dummy): it is a cloth or hay doll that is blanketed or burned during the Carnival celebrations. It can represent a problem that we want to solve or a character we want to make an example to.
- Sardina (Sardine): at the end of the Carnival many places have the custom of burying one of these fish. But, why a sardine? Some say that it represents the prohibition of eating meat during Lent and others say that it is all due to a masquerade in which some noblemen from Madrid took with humour the fact that they had received a badge of sardines in a bad condition.
Now you know what to expect when you put on your masks and throw confetti at the charanga in this year’s Shrovetide.
Carnival is a time of happiness, satires and masquerades, so we shouldn’t be too surprised to find that the origin of the word itself is a bit elusive and mocking. There are few words with some many theories on their origin.
The most accepted theory tells us that it comes from the union of the Italian words "carne" (meat) and "levare" (to take away), referring to the days before the time in which Christians stop eating meat.
Others say that the "vale" referred to the "validez" (tolerance) of meat during the celebrations. This would mean that it would be a time of tolerance in which giving in to the pleasures of the flesh wasn’t as serious as in other days.
One of the funniest theories mentions the Catholic church’s habit of arrogating pagan celebrations. So, what we would be celebrating is the feasts in honor of Carna, the Celtic Goddess of beans and bacon. It is even said that it masks another rite according to which there would be a meat offering in honor of the Babylonian God Baal (and from the combination of both we would have the word Carna-Baal).
We will finally quaote a last theory that really called our attention: according to some, the coming of spring happened at the same time as Bacchus’ boats moored. These boats were called "carrus navalis" (the fleet) and from that the name supposedly evolved to Carnival. For those who defend this theory, this origin of the celebration would explain the presence of carriages and chariots on parade during these celebrations.
We have only referred to the most commonly accepted –or funny-sounding- theories, although there are many more. Maybe only one is true.... or maybe all of them are false as a mask!
This month we bring you two very interesting offers that end on the 22nd of February. So whether you want to learn Spanish with an intensive course, or want sports lessons in our summer camps, hurry up!
In the first place, we will tell you more about our General Intensive Spanish courses offer: if you benefit from this offer, you will have a 10% off on it, no matter what accommodation choice or city of destination (excepting Cadiz, Malaga and Pamplona). But remember, this discount is only applicable to courses lasting longer than 2 weeks. Oh! And don’t forget that this offer is limited to 65 vacancies, so don’t take too long...!
And if what you want is practising asport in our summer camps you must know that if you book your camp before February 22nd and bring a friend along with you, you will both receive a 100€ gift card for the sport classes of your choice. This offer is only available for the residential program and is already on for the Barcelona, Madrid, Marbella, Salamanca and Valencia camps. If you have considered that, apart from learning languages, you would like to improve your skills with a racket, go into sailing or give horse riding or golf a try... the time is now!
If you should have any doubts on the offers, or want to know more about them, don’t hesitate to ask us, we will be glad to help you. And don’t forget to mention these offers to the person that you talk to when you book your course or summer camp.
Don’t miss this chance and benefit from these discounts as soon as you can... And remember that February has only got 28 days!