Victoria-Rose Tucker is spending a year with a host family in Spain.
Christmas sure was different this year! I celebrated it in a different country, on a different day, in a different way with a different family. Crazy!
Although it was a nice Christmas, really, it's sad to admit that I didn't feel much magic this year. Yes there was still magic amongst the beautiful streets and joyful atmosphere, and in the glittering fairy lights but Christmas didn't truly feel like Christmas.
Here in Spain they celebrate on December 24 as well as the 25th. The Christmas Eve celebration was very relaxed, I just went with my host family to the grandparents' house and we shared a nice meal together. This consisted of bread, ham, a salmon and egg dish, a noodle sort of dish (which I found out was actually sea worms) and prawns!
The evening ended at around 11.30pm, then I was so excited to call my NZ family.
Everything was exactly as I imagined it would be ... a typical Tucker Christmas on the other end of the line. The Christmas tree was sitting in the same place as always, there was a busy and happy atmosphere and people everywhere. But when I say "people everywhere" I really just mean my family.
There was my precious wee sister Megsy, my beautiful Mum bustling around organising things in her new Christmas dress, my Dad rattling off some inappropriate but funny jokes, my sister Danielle settled on the couch alongside her husband holding their newborn baby, and my other sisters working away in the kitchen preparing the big Christmas feed, my two younger twin brothers setting up their new toy cars, with our adopted granddad helping out, and then my favourite uncle sitting on the couch trying to avoid any chaos.
After chatting with my family and things were settling down a bit, my oldest sister convinced me that I should probably go to bed - 3.30am.
On Christmas morning I woke up to my host sister shouting for me to get out of bed, I think it was 10am, so not too bad I must say! My host sister is eight years old and still believes in Papa Noel so she thought that everything came from him and it was all magic. I thought carefully about what to give my family and in the end I thought that I bought some really nice presents but my presents were from Papa Noel too apparently.
I was a bit sad when my host parents didn't say thanks then or later on, they didn't make any comments so I have no idea if they liked them. I hope they did!
My host family had bought me some sports shoes. I loved the colour and everything and was so grateful but when I tried them on they were too tight.
After the meal we had presents for the adults through a traditional thing called "invisible friend," similar to Secret Santa.
The next tradition is a really strange one ... I really don't understand it but it's called "Caga Tio," pronounced "Cacka-tee-oh" is a wooden log with a smiley face painted on one end. It also wears a traditional Catalan red hat and is basically the Catalan equivalent of Santa Claus. Caga tio translates to "poo Log," Christmassy hey?!
The idea is that Caga Tio is looked after by the kids from December 8 to Christmas Eve. They cover his rear end with a blanket to keep him warm and feed him Turron and Orange peel every evening. The more they feed him, the more Christmas presents he will poo for Christmas.
I kid you not people, I didn't believe it either, but it's true, and the story only gets stranger from here. Caga Tio, apparently, needs a little persuasion to "poo" the presents out, so after weeks of feeding and making sure he is warm with his blanket, the kids are given a stick to "beat" it with. Only then will he "poo" out the presents.
As if this isn't absurd enough, they also have to sing a song, which tells him if he doesn't poop out good presents they will beat him more.
There is also another poo orientated tradition they have here which involves a man called Caganer. He is a little porcelain "nativity" figure, squatting down and pooping, somewhere in the nativity scene. He is normally hidden somewhere among the more traditional nativity scene characters, and there are heaps of different versions of him.
After the Caga Tio there were no more presents and everyone sat around talking and I just about fell asleep on the couch (dribble and all - how embarrassing). I guess staying up till 3.30am did get to me in the end.
I can now tick off my list "Christmas in another country" and I'm glad I got to experience it even though I missed my family a bunch.
- The Timaru Herald