Sunday, August 31, 2008

Festes Patronals Mare de Deu de Loreto

Today marked the kick-off of one of the larger town “festes”, the feast of the Virgin of Loreto. This is a week-long festival, with a multitude of events, parades, competitions and town gatherings each day. The timing was perfect for guests, and we got our first. Eric Steeb (friend of Suzanne’s from B-School) and his wife Susan – who just happened to be in Spain on their year-long trek around the world. They’re staying with us for a week and then head off to Islands before continuing on their trip. With kids and friends in tow, we headed eagerly into the port area of town looking for the “gigantesca chocolatada”, which the English paper translated as the “chocolate giant”. We assumed that this would take the form of a large chocolate statue, perhaps in the shape of the virgin, from which the kids would be able to break off pieces to eat. We showed up to the designated area to find several ladies pouring warm liquid chocolate into a cup and handing out sponge-like cakes for dipping. “Daddy, where is the chocolate giant???” I had to explain that we may have misunderstood the event and that perhaps the giant had been melted down into the cups they were now holding. While they seemed to enjoy the chocolate, they were clearly disappointed. We then headed over to the paella feast, where all of the children in town were served a delicious meal of chicken paella and drinks (note: the adults had to fend for themselves, but at least we were able to enjoy a sangria-a-go-go as part of the festival). Fortunately, our children have not yet acquired a taste for paella, so we had several leftover plates which I eagerly ate from once the children had finished. Perhaps a bit of the ugly American came out as the Spanish parents seemed to exercise much more restraint. But in my defense, their children ate most of the paella! It was quite tasty and we enjoyed watching them cook in a pan that must have been over 3 feet in diameter. Cooking paella is much more involved than I realized. We will have to figure this out while we’re here. That evening, we headed back into port area with Eric and Susan to catch the evening town parade, which was to be followed with a “correfocs fireworks” show at midnight. The kids all took proper siestas in the day and we promised that they could stay up on this special night. The town was all lit up with decorative lights strung across the streets and the float parade began with a series of large floats carrying many of the local children dressed in intricate and colorful ceremonial costumes. They were throwing confetti and candy off the floats as they passed by. We then had an hour to kill before the fireworks, and the kids were starting to get a bit rambunctious. I asked a local merchant where the fireworks were, assuming they would be shot off the port pier and was told, “oh no, these are not fireworks, they are more like sparklers that people march with up and down the streets, just like on your 4th of July”. So yet one more translation disconnect that daddy had to explain to the kids! Suzanne was pulling her hair out trying to herd our kids who were quite out of control at this point and in my infinite wisdom, I argued for staying a bit longer… The fire show began in one of the side plazas and we saw what appeared to be roman candles on steroids billowing above the crowded plaza. People in hooded costumes were carrying giant staffs with the fireworks lit on top and waving them at the crowds as they began the procession through the port streets. Sparks were flying everywhere and the participants would often run into the crowds chasing people with their staffs ‘o fire. It was both spectacular and chaotic – yet one more thing you just don’t see in the States! Thoroughly exhausted after this big day, we got home well after 1 a.m. and collapsed.

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