I was on the bus home from the airport when I sent out a group message to the girls: “I’m headed back to Donosti. Flights cancelled.” To which I received the response from Usoa: “Ohhhhhh myyyy gooooooooooooooooood. You are coming to my country house.” And it was settled.
A Christmas in the Spanish countryside isn’t what I had planned for December 2013, but after strong winds kept planes from landing and taking off it’s where I found myself surrounded by my Basque family. I never thought I’d find another family just quite as crazy and loving as mine. But here I’ve found them.
We arrived just after dark and just in time for glasses of wine to be poured and us to sit down at the table to begin eating.
Giant shrimp – eyeballs, feet, and all – were in a couple bowls across the table to pick at, as well as chorizo and bread. Then blood pudding, fish soup, and a chicken foot pallela were served. To say the least, I gave it my best and tried most of the food minus the feet.
The night contiued with wine, whiskey, coffee and Christmas carols — each of us singing a classic Christmas carol with others joining in who knew the lyrics as well. I shared the English version of Jingle Bells, singing the verse myself and the rest of the family joining in at the chorus and adding percussion by slapping the table with the palms of their hands.
The singing didn’t stop till the Olentzero arrived with gifts! And even then the singing and laughter grew.
The Olentzero is the Basque version of Santa Clause. He’s an older man who lives in the mountains working in a coal mine all year long. At Christmas he comes down delivering gifts to the homes of Basque families. He even knew I had a change of plans and brought me a special gift and a beautifully made letter from Usoa.
The next day we woke up late to a funny message from Lucy in England, “Happy Christmas, girlieessss! Feliz Cumpl . . . no . . . Feliz Navidad! Ya sabéis q hemos pasado tiempo en el pub! Buennoo, os echo de menos! Pásalo bien!”
So we made her a little dance number music video for her Christmas Birthday with our own version of Feliz Navidad / We Wanna Wish you a Happy Birthday!
We also watched a shepard – “el buen pastor” – lead his flock of sheep down the road towards our house, we pet a baby cow, and ate another – more sensible – meal for Christmas Lunch. Then it was time to head back to the city.
And here I am. Two days later and just having my first real meal after so much food and drink. And although my plans changed from spending the holidays in the UK to finding myself still in Spain, I’m grateful for all I have in my life: the wonderful people and place to be.
Now I wait for a friend to arrive this afternoon as his holiday plans had been changed as well and we’ll make our way out of this little northern town in Spain towards the coast for some unplanned adventures.
May you all have had a Merry little Christmas and have wonderful plans for the New Year! Hasta la proxima.