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Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas in the Basque Country

Christmas in the Basque Country,

Christmas in the Basque Country starts with Santo Tomas, a celebration in which most people go out onto the streets to dance and eat txistorra (a type of Basque chorizo). They wear a traditional outfit called the casera dress. For girls it consists of a long skirt and a long-sleeved old-fashioned shirt with headscarves and aprons. The boys wear a long black shirt, trousers and what looks like a French black beret. The casera outfits are normally dark blue, but can come in many colors. They wear caseras because that is what the people of the mountain wear and the holiday used to celebrate the peasants who sold their goods in town and came on Santo Tomas to pay rent to landlords in the city. In the Basque Country the equivalent of Santa is Olentxero, and Olentxero lives or lived (depending on what you believe) in the mountains, and he wears the boys' casera.
On Christmas Day all the children in the Basque Country go to sleep early and they leave their shoes in the middle of whatever room in the house that isn't the bathroom or their bedroom. Olentxero leaves all the presents beside the shoes. On New Year's Day some people put on their casera dresses and they go sing to the retired people in the retirement home. The day after in the morning, whether it's raining or snowing, it's a tradition for some people to go swim in the sea (if there is a sea in their town or city). The one other day that is important to the Basques is the 6th of January (the Day of the Three Kings). On that night the same happens. The children leave their shoes out and in the night the Three Kings come and leave presents, but much less than Olentxero does.


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