American in Spain

A Basque Chrismas with Olentzero

December 30, 2009
Opening presents is the best!

On Christmas Eve night in the Basque Country, the homes of little children are visited by an enormous, soot-stained, Basque gentleman in a beret who drops off presents. His name is Olentzero. The history of this tradition and its variations is quite fascinating. In fact, when people give gifts on Christmas, there is much less emphasis (than in my culture) on who the gift is from. It's just, "Here's your Olentzero", where the name also is slang for the gift itself. Surprising no one, Nora was the biggest recipient of gifts from the big burly Basque this year. Christmas 2: Olentzero

Quite a respectable haul, I'd say!

Opening presents is the best!

Once again, the actual ripping of wrapping paper was the best part.

Choo-choo train!

A choo-choo train! The music it plays is surprisingly pleasing and non-annoying, but then I've only heard it a dozen times so far.

Baby doll for Nora

A doll! As dolls go, this one is pretty nice. The body is soft, and the head is molded plastic. On the box, it says, "She takes her shoes off!" and "Works without batteries!" leading some adults to have hopes of animatronics, but those two sentences mean that its shoes do come off and that it doesn't require batteries, much in the same way that a block of wood doesn't require batteries.

Whoa, it looks just like me!

The doll's face is DISTURBINGLY similar to Nora's.

New doll

Aunt Marga holds the doll.

Flambéing Shrimp

Aunt Marga flambes shrimp.

Shimp and Olives

Shrimp, olives, and a half-pint of wine.

Marga's new cardigan

Olentzero brought Marga this lovely grape cardigan.

Caressing Great-Grandpa

Caressing Great-Grandpa.

That's not your great-granddaughter!

Um, that's not your great grand-daughter. You can tell them apart because Nora never uses a pacifier.

Hi, Nora!

Playing with Mommy after Christmas dinner.

We all had a wonderful time at Christmas. The traditional family Christmas carols that Marga wrote down last year were printed out (the paper table cloth she wrote them on spent the year in our car's glove compartment) and passed out for singing. Nora was very well behaved after her period of adaptation. Perhaps next year Nora will want to see Olentzero when he parades around town before Christmas.