Saturday, December 27, 2014

My first Catalan Christmas

What a wonderful past few days it has been here in Catalunya!  Being apart from your family on major holidays can be very hard.  Thankfully, I had my Catalan family that welcomed me into their home with open arms, taught and explained all of their traditions to me, cooked me the typical Catalan meals, and treated me as one of their own.  This, mixed with a nice long FaceTime session with my family in Belleville, made my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day just perfect.  I couldn't ask for a more loving and supportive family.

Wednesday night, Carles and I got ready and then headed for Sabadell.  Sabadell is a smaller town outside Barcelona, about 20 minutes, where Carles is from.  We pulled up to his parents flat right at the same time they were arriving with Carles grandparents (from his dad's side).  Actually.. This was my first time meeting the grandparents.  As they are both in their mid 80's, they have lived in Sabadell their entire lives.. What does this mean? They speak only Catalan.  Unfortunately for me, I am learning Spanish first as they say you have to be fluent in Spanish before you can start with Catalan because it is a difficult language to learn.  Of course, I can understand some things in Catalan but cannot speak it at all.  This is a major bump in the road of mine and Carles relationship that we have both accepted and know we will have to face more in the future.. Me not being able to communicate with his grandparents or other distant family members who don't speak Spanish (or obviously English) and I don't speak Catalan and am learning Spanish.  With all this being said, it was a bit nerve-racking in the beginning for Carles and I both as he is very close with his grandparents and of course wanted them to like me and be able to communicate with me and vice versa.. But what happens with you don't speak any similar languages?  

All in all.. it was a great experience with lots of translating, nodding heads, smiling at eachother, laughing, my broken Spanish, & their broken Spanish.. We had a great time.  His grandpa, Quirze (pronounced Keyr-za), asked Carles (in Catalan of course) if my teeth were real and his Grandma, Lourdes, explained how much she loved both my hair and boots.  I'm going to go ahead and consider that as a win-win for a first time meeting. :)

Caga Tió was also such a nice experience that I loved getting to do (thanks to Carles' mom, Olga and dad, Joan, pronounced Ju-an) and the presents were just as wonderful.  I learned that first you have to stand around the nativity scene in the other room and sing a typical Catalan Christmas Carol and then the parents tell who is going to be hitting the Tió (because the parents put the present of that person under the blanket for the Tió to poop out).  Then, as you are hitting the Tió with a stick, the others sing a famous song about the Tió.. And when they are done you lift up the blanket and magically there are your presents!! 

If you are a couple, most likely your presents are put together so you get to hit Tió together!  Apparently I wasn't hitting hard enough, so Carles had to take matters into his own hands :)

The hat Tió is wearing is a famous male Catalan hat to wear during the holidays.  

Bon Nadal! (Merry Christmas in Catalan) 

Aleix's turn!

After Tió, we sat down and had a delicious very traditional Catalan meal consisting of "pan con tomate" which is bread with fresh tomatoe rubbed onto it with a generous amount of oil and salt on top.  Delicious and SO Catalan.  To accompany the bread we had traditional "jamón" or ham.. Cut straight from the legs as these Spaniards love to do ;) with some "fuet" another type of sausage/ meat to put ontop of your bread.  Bottles of red wine and "cava" (Spanish champagne) were circling the table along with lots of chocolates "bon bons" (his grandmas favorite :) sort of like another grandma I know... mine!) and lots and lots of turrón, which is a famous Catalan sweet.. Comparable to fudge or even peanut brittle in some cases.  The food was great but the company and conversation (broken Spanish, broken English, Catalan, and lots of translating) were even better.  

Carles and I came home and ended up catching my family just in time on FaceTime to watch them open their presents! Perfect timing!  We got to explain Tió to them and see what they all got from Santa and then we opened our presents from eachother.  Carles was very happy with his mini/workout/armband/iPod/radio thing as well as his scratch-off-the-places-you-have-been, world map.  I was so excited to open the 2 most adorable outfits (pants, shirt, necklace, and a dress) from Carles. 

Christmas Day we woke up a bit late, quickly got ready and headed to the beach to find it buzzing with tourists enjoying the beautiful 60 degree weather. 
This was my first Christmas being on a beach.. It felt kind of funny not being bundled up freezing to death in the Midwest.. But I can't complain! 

Feliz Navidad from Barceloneta :)

We got to his parents house (this time just us, his parents, and brother) just in time for some yummy appetizers before our big traditional Catalan meat soup.  It. Was. So. Good.  Carles was congratulating his mom over and over (as he sometimes says she doesn't know how to cook, which I disagree with) as were his dad and brother.  It was so sweet of his mom to make this meal for me, again allowing me to get the full experience.  

After lunch we packed up and all went to Carles' mom's brother's flat to find more cava, turrón, and Catalan conversation.  It was nice getting to meet some of the distant family, they were all so sweet to me, trying to speak in English when they could and telling me about their visits to the United States.  Carles' dad was even sweeter to try and translate everything they were talking about in Catalan to me in English which is difficult when you think about family get togethers and how fast you speak about millions of different topics.  I am so fortunate and feel so lucky to have Carles, his parents, and brother who are constantly trying to make me feel included and fill me in on what's going on.  If the first and only language here was Spanish, it would be much easier because I understand almost everything in Spanish (speaking is my weak point right now) but they are all speaking Catalan which makes it hard but so worth it.  I love being emerged into their culture and getting to see how a whole different part of the world lives, speaks, eats, etc.  

Christmas night Carles and I came back to Barcelona and ended up walking to a new "brewhouse" we saw a few days prior that is about 5 minutes walking distance from our flat.  For those of you who know me, know I looooooove my craft beer (and how they don't love or even really know what craft beer is here in Spain) so needless to say I was excited!  It's such a darling place called Black-Lab with tasty beers that they brew on site.  Also, come to find out- the couple, who opened the brewery- the girl is Chinese but grew up here her whole life and the man is from Minnesota!  We spent the rest of the evening sipping delicious IPAs, comparing stories, talking about visas, and all the other things bicultural couples have in common. :)

The are the first brewhouse in Barcelona that will be brewing their own beers on site. So cool! Even cooler that they are a 5 minute walk from our place! 

The rye IPA was our favorite. Yum! 

The day after Christmas was spent watching a lot of netflix and relaxing.  We ventured out last night to go try a new Mexican place as Carles was craving Mexican, but they were super crowded so we opted out for an awesome place called "Cien Montaditos" which is a super cheap place to get tapas and cervezas.  Perfect.  Tonight we are going to try the Mexican place again with some friends and then I'm going to make Carles drive me around to see all the beaaaauuutiful Christmas lights strung throughout the city.  Each major (and even some side streets) have different lights hung from one side of the road to the other.  Here is one I saw last night..

Such a beautiful winter wonderland! 

Thanks for reading about my very merry Catalan Christmas!  Stay tuned.. We are leaving for our New Year's Eve tradition trip next week and will have lots of stories and pics as we will be jetting off to a country neither of us have visited before! Xoxo 

1 comment:

  1. That's good to know about the beer, I've been seeking out breweries in Spain! Also, that's really interesting about Christmas.