Diego is one of the three main characters in City of Sorrows. For those of you who have read the book, you may remember that his friend, Rajiv, visited Diego’s home on Christmas Day. Rajiv is from India and this is his first Christmas celebration in Seville.
Like Rajiv, I spent one Christmas Day with a Gypsy family from San Juan del Alnalfarache, a town on the outskirts of Seville. I thought it would be fun for you to see in pictures how a group of Gypsy families celebrate Christmas.
Because this family of Gypsies was Christian, the first thing they did on Christmas day was celebrate a “culto” or religious service. Well, actually, by the time I showed up at 3 pm. they had already celebrated three cultos. Some of the family members had started to complain. Pastor Pepe could not understand why certain members would not want to praise the Lord all day long. Passion, as we know, is one of the signature characteristics of Gypsy culture.
The family spent the entire day together, from midday until about ten or eleven at night. Family members and friends would come and go, but they always returned, sometimes with a new friend, church “brother or sister,” or another family member.
In the book, Rajiv visited Diego in his home. As he described it, “The homey scent of food cooking on a stove greeted them as they entered. Rajiv couldn’t identify all the smells, but he detected the pungent odor of frying garlic. Onions boiling in a stew. Roasted tomatoes. The spices were unfamiliar, but warmly welcoming.” (page 205, City of Sorrows)
Food is a huge part of the day. Large pots are filled with delicious stews, and the table is laden with meat, potato salad, fried squid, chunks of fried fish, and bread.
There were no Christmas decorations, and no traditional sweets, but there was plenty of good cheer. As Rajiv observed, “The Christmas day celebration extended into evening. The apartment filled with visitors, family, friends, neighbors. Guitars were pulled out. Extra tables. Raw meat was grilled over charcoal on a rack assembled on the balcony.” (page 211, City of Sorrows)
In the home I was in, the grilling did not take place on the balcony but in an open air patio in the center of the house. The smell of that grilling meat was enticing, and very different from the smells of the Christmas Eve dinner I shared with my Spanish friends the night before. For a description of a traditional Spanish Christmas Eve celebration read Andrés and Adela’s Spanish Christmas.
This Spanish Gypsy Christmas was amazing, but very different from the Christmas Eve dinner I shared with my Spanish friends. How does Diego’s Christmas Day differ from yours? How is it the same? What do you think Diego might have done after the festivities ended on Christmas Day?