This post began, a couple of weeks back, in a totally different form. Technology killed it. I clicked something I shouldn’t have, and three-quarters of what I’d written was lost in the ether of cyberspace. I had no heart to try to recall lost words. Its time was past.
All of which set me thinking about how we tell time by the revolving customs as well as the seasons.
As soon as the Kings have hiked on back to Fairyland, I begin to think about almond blossom. The first ones were spotted this year very early in January, and I missed my usual jaunt over to Santiago del Teide to see them , so I was surprised and happy to spot on orchard in El Hierro, still groaning with blossoms.
I went to a talk about wine pairing (topical because it paired wines with almonds) and that was the subject of my murdered post. I learned nothing new about wine, but a lot about almonds. It was amusing but hardly life changing, but that was it, the year’s first bookmark passed.
I guess we need our bookmarks to reassure us, that life goes on, that we are till rooted. That we are still here, even.
On this island, after the almond blossom comes Carnival. The main event in Santa Cruz, and the minor ones around the island in the following weeks. Personally, I prefer the smaller ones, they are much more fun that the extravaganza in the capital….as you can see in the faces of the folk below (one of whom is my hairdresser….pity her!) Watching the “big” carnival on tv you gotta wonder sometimes why they bother, so bored or serious the faces are.
Scenes From the Carnival in El Médano This Year
I have come to realize, now is a kind of dead zone on the island calendar. Of course it is! The foundations of so many festivals are religious, the churches, of course, have cleverly high-jacked pre-Christian ones to help convert. Thus – Carnival – the eating and drinking of anything vaguely hedonistic, packing six weeks of fun into a few days & nights, before the rigors of Lent. It’s Lent right now, the season of abstinence, and so fun events are thin on the ground. There is no tradition of celebrating at this time of year.
Easter is almost here though, with all its solemnity, which will segue into sunshine and happiness for believers, but at least the fiestas will start up again! It’s possible that nowhere outside Vatican City does the Catholic Church still have such sway with a country’s cultural life.
There are exceptions to the rule (Arona in the south of the island, for instance) but most fiestas and romerias are summer events. Throughout summer and into Fall, each town and village will dust down the statue of its patron/ness and parade it around the streets. Bunting will flutter. Kiosks selling beer and hotdogs will set up around town squares. In any village big enough, the traveling fair will set up. Older women will weep. Children will be bored. Young folk will get drunk. Fireworks will fill the night skies. If the village is on the coast, boats will be decked with bunting. The faithful and the local politicians will crowd on board tighter than sardines and risk their lives, putting to sea, so that the likeness of the patron can bless the waters ….. as if an ornate piece of plaster can turn back years of overfishing. Inland, the hauntingly bland faces of the statues will survey the rich soils of the north or the barren deserts of the south. People will celebrate arriving again at this, particular, point in the year, will take comfort from the predictability and the familiarity. Tourists will go to some of these, in Los Cristianos or Puerto de la Cruz, and will, on the other hand, find them strange and exotic.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a non-believer (of this version of religion), I find much of this alien, that I never feel totally at home, though everyone is always made thoroughly welcome, so mea culpa. When I go to other festivals, like the wonderful Mueca in Puerto de la Cruz, or El Día de la Trilla in El Tanque, or El Día de las Canarias anywhere in May, I feel much more comfortable and relaxed. Not that there isn’t plenty to do or admire outside of the religious aspect of most festivals – flowers, animals, costumes, music, food and wine.
As we turn back our clocks, as the chestnut trees in the north deliver their goodies, as we scurry from the beach at 4pm instead of 7, and begin to wonder if it might rain, the new wines arrive. Harvested in the heat of late summer, graded and fussed over in early Autumn, the wines are presented and hyped by the vineyards. Reviews are eagerly awaited, and young folk do crazy things to celebrate this increasingly important part of island economy. Once there was a time when Canarian wines were famous all over the world, and island wine makers are working hard these days to recover that fame. Needless to say, as a fan, I love this time of year, especially the traditions in Icod de los Vinos.
And so to Christmas, which is, by the standards with which I grew up, something of a non-event. Although now commercialized beyond recognition, it remains, basically a festival which resembles Thanksgiving more than Christmas in the rest of the western world. The family gathers on Christmas Eve but there is no exchanging of gifts, making the commercialization a bit of a mystery. Followed by getting drunk on New Year’s Eve and the kids fighting over presents on The Day of the 3 Kings……which means that all that commercialization was directed at kids….. and it’s Almond Blossom Time again.
Perhaps it’s the unaccustomed number of cloudy days, perhaps it’s the tales of corruption and back-handers, which are making me skeptical today. Perhaps tomorrow I will be eagerly researching the times for the Easter Parades (do NOT think Judy Garland!). Or perhaps it’s too long since I salved my itchy feet.