At last, there’s almost a whiff of turkey in the air. Not to mention mince pies, the odd sausage roll and a hint of Glühwein! Yes! Christmas is only a few sleeps away, and naturally our thoughts have been turning to friends and family both back in Old Blighty and here on the island.
It always takes a little longer for Festive Frivolity to ramp up on the island. After all, Christmas is traditionally much more of a religious holiday in Majorca with the ‘Kings’ on 5 January being the main focus of celebration, plus of course, the global New Year’s Eve celebrations. Dear old Santa is quite a new revelation for the Spanish and Majorcan islanders, but the opportunity for blatant commercialism has well and truly landed, so it’s all systems go, wherever you are.
Back in the UK, a frenzy of festive fairy lights has been flashing since October! I’ve even seen trees in the past with chocolate easter eggs dangling ( or they could have been dodgy baubles!). My guess is that it’s only a matter of time before the two holidays meet somewhere in the middle, and we see Christmas trees in August with an Easter bunny aloft instead of a twinkling star!
Here in Majorca they celebrate so many fiestas, it’s almost a welcome break when there’s a short run without one. But, if they want to kick off their run up to Christmas in the UK a trifle earlier than us over here, then why not! It’s not all about the glitz and glamour, or the tinsel and turkey; and believe it or not, not everyone actually ‘does’ Christmas. Personally, I love everything about it, but we are constantly being reminded of the lonely ‘singles’ (not always the elderly ) who, through one reason or another, have no-one to share even a glimmer of Christmas cheer with.
Here in Majorca, the social culture is structured very differently from back home, with a strong emphasis and focus on family, unless of course they have all fallen out over who ate the last stuffed olive 25 years ago and haven’t spoken for the past two decades!
In Majorca, the festive celebrations are generally more low-key, and centre around the religious aspect of the occasion, with a huge, traditional family feast on Christmas Eve involving everyone from great grandparents to the newly borns. The elderly are never left alone, and it’s no shame to be a ‘single’ either! It’s a good old get together and no-one in the family ever gets left out or forgotten. A wonderful concept.
It’s very rare in Majorca to find an elderly person living alone with no support from family or friends. Admittedly, there are those who live independently in their own homes, but they are usually no more than an ‘ensaimada’ throw away from a son, daughter or doting relative. It’s their way. Their custom.
Yet sadly, there will always be exceptions to every rule, and in the expat camp, where, through no fault of their own, there are those who will be spending Christmas alone.
It doesn’t take much to keep an eye out, and if you do know of someone who will be spending Christmas ‘solo’, then why not just pop over for a few minutes, or invite them in for a mince pie and a warming ‘copa’. It doesn’t have to be for the entire day, although that’s a wonderful gift to someone living alone! And don’t take an immediate ‘no’ as a definitive. A lot of ‘singles’ might be too proud to admit they are lonely for company. Especially at Christmas time. You’ve got two weeks to plan your cunning strategy!
Having said all that, not all ‘singles’ are actually lonely, and some old folk can be downright cantankerous and unbelievably crotchety. So, after my ‘seek out a lonely single appeal’, here is a rather humorous account of something I remember fondly each and every Christmas.
Some years ago when I lived in the UK, my elder sister decided to participate in a ‘Feed a Pensioner this Christmas’ campaign, and invited an elderly lady she had never met in her entire life, into her family home for Christmas Day.
“We’ve all got to buy her something,” was the order of the day. “But nothing big or too fancy. Just a token gesture so Mrs X feels welcome and has something to un-wrap.” We were already a family gathering of 11, so with various partners and children in tow it was going to be even cosier with an extra stranger in our midsts. But we all supported the sentiment of my sister’s gesture and welcomed Mrs X ( can’t remember her name ) into the family home.
I admit whole-heartedly that it doesn’t sound very charitable to say, but I can honestly understand why some of these pensioners never get invited back.
Mrs X didn’t like the comfy armchair she was offered by the fireside. She wanted our Mum’s recliner along with all the windows open which quickly turned the cosy lounge Artic! Mrs X didn’t like mince pies much either, or sausage rolls, or any of the traditional little bites that our Mum had painstakingly prepared with her own fair hand. And she only drank Harveys Bristol Cream, so sat there with a face as long as a cricket bat when she was offered an alternative. Someone had to nip out to the off-licence for the requested brand which she then refused.
Devoid of any enthusiasm or festive emotion, Mrs X unwrapped her presents then promptly discarded them as she was apparently allergic to all the talcs, bath cubes and glitzy toiletries we had wrapped for her. Young Sara’s much awaited and rehearsed violin solo was also cut short after 30 seconds as it reminded Mrs X of her dead cat ( which perhaps it did but that’s not the point ).
We ate Christmas dinner in silence before Mrs X’s indigestion kicked in rather suddenly the moment she’d finished a lion’s share of the Christmas pudding. In fact, although she complained about everything, Mrs X polished off the entire feast, showing a particular penchant for the brussel sprouts. It was a relief when she left, with not much as a ‘thank you’, yet her presence remained for some time, due to the chronic wind problem that the sprouts had apparently exacerbated. We were at least grateful for all the open windows she had insisted on!
Our Christmas guest also left her discarded presents behind. And strangely, Mum never did find her new slippers or Dad’s bottle of Napolean Brandy that suddenly disappeared along with Mrs X. We still laugh about our Christmas guest to this very day.