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What's it like there over the Xmas break?

Posted: December 28th, 2019, 5:58 pm
by Rickse28
Howdy all:
Just a general question or three, directed at those of you who live there or who have beaten a retreat from the UK during the Christmas hols. I have done some digging around with mixed results so I would like to get a feel for what it is like for ex-pats in the Balearics. (Plans are gathering pace...)
I know more or less about the weather and the cold winds at this time of year. And the fact that everything is shut. This post is more of a cultural enquiry, however.
Do Catalonions celebrate Xmas/New Year much like mainland Spaniards? Menorca perhaps has made things more blurred, with British customs (for which read American...) and an overtly consumerist indulgence possibly having taken over. I would appreciate any comments.
I wonder whether the Catholic way of celebrating this important time of the year is more traditional.
Are the Brits there 'going with the flow', or is it a case of 'just like home'?
Do they have a Hogmanay-type of event?
Best wishes to you all, whether you are in Menorca or here in the UK, and above all, Happy New Year.

Re: What's it like there over the Xmas break?

Posted: December 28th, 2019, 11:49 pm
by SusieH
Hi and welcome to the site :finga:

I've moved your post from the weather forum into this main forum as I think you'll get more of a response. Keep checking back, our members will only be too willing to give you the answers you need :grin:

Re: What's it like there over the Xmas break?

Posted: December 29th, 2019, 8:38 am
by Shuggie
In my opinion there is less hype around the whole Christmas Day celebration than in the U.K. Yes it is celebrated and yes the shops are full of Christmas orientated products but nothing to the extremes of the U.K. There are decorations up in all the main towns but you don’t see the fanatical decorations in locals houses as there is in the U.K.

So to answer your question I would say yes is it celebrated in a more traditional sense and as a religious event than the over hyped, over commercial, media driven nonsense in the U.K. I fear that might be changing as time goes on.

New Year is usual a very quiet time with the vast majority of bars closed. Restaurants will be open and the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight is still very much alive.

Kings on the 6th Jan is the big one for the kids, that’s when they get there Christmas presents. For example in Es Castell/Mahon the 3 kings arrive my boat (as Santa would on his sledge) and hand out gifts to the waiting Children.

Can’t wait until it’s all over and everything gets back to humbug :toasting:

Re: What's it like there over the Xmas break?

Posted: December 29th, 2019, 3:53 pm
by Rickse28
That's interesting - thanks for the info. My kids are growing up fast, which in some ways is sad. Daughter = 14 and wants fashion and shoes. Son = 11 and wants computer stuff. I hope to tone down the whole seasonal madness thing and let them remember the real meaning of Christmas. I would like to bring both of them over with me, but for my daughter I will leave the decision to her. She may elect to remain in London with my ex, with whom I am friendly, finish school and maybe 'ex-pat' with me later. We have been to Menorca several times, and I have visited it on my own to do what I call gumshoe work (searching for property rentals).
I have lots to learn, and want to get my head round Catalan eventually. The B-word is still what might throw the whole thing, however. But the pound has gone up against the euro, so maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel.
An ideal Christmas for me, after celebrating it in church (I'm not fanatically religious), would be something like a Medieval banquet. Not so much in scale, but more the idea of a feast at a big table, with friends and family present. I think the word is wassailing - drinking toasts, having a roaring fire, good conversation and keeping the worst of winter at bay - for a few hours at least!
Many thanks everyone, and a Happy New Year. As Kenneth Williams never said: "Carry on posting!"
PS I'm not exactly a newbie. There was a glitch in the system a couple of weeks ago, and my account disappeared. I joined on 01 May 2017, according to my notebook. I had to re-register. If Shuggie or Slarti can tweak the joining info on me, I would appreciate it! :toasting:

Re: What's it like there over the Xmas break?

Posted: January 3rd, 2020, 6:55 pm
by Sue Adderley
Hi and a Happy New Year!

Just adding my observations to the Christmas/NYE subject :grin:

We've a holiday home on the island and have spent each festive season in Menorca over the last 17 years. We've noticed that's there more importance put on Christmas Eve celebrations than on Christmas Day itself (although both days are bank holidays). People tend to have their feast on Christmas Eve and/or go to midnight mass.

Most residential towns: Sant Lluis, Alaior, Ferreries etc. (not the resorts; these are mostly ghost-towns during the winter) have a large marquee erected for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve celebrations. Some towns, such as Es Mercadal, have their own community hall, where these events are held throughout Christmas week. All parties are usually free entry and consist of a DJ/disco/local band/tribute act, which start quite late and go on until the early hours of the morning (11.30pm - 5am :rock: :partyman: . In fact, I've seen a Facebook video of the Christmas Eve party in the square in Alaior this year and it looked like a rave :supz: :barmy: Certainly a lot of young people enjoying themselves! In Mahon, the old fish market at the top of the steps and Santa Rita restaurant in the Plaza Bastio have DJs/bands playing during the day of 31st December and these 'street parties' are also very well attended. There also seems to be more restaurants opening for NYE. We've been to a few over the years, our favourite being Es Moli (the windmill) in Mercadal, where most of the restaurant walk the short distance across the car park to the communal hall, after their meal and 12 grapes, to party until (almost) dawn :toasting:

The whole island certainly still has a much more traditional feel than the UK at this time of year, IMHO. There are a scattering of Christmas markets and if you follow the Ajuntament (council) Facebook page for each town, you'll find various day events organised throughout Christmas week (marching bands with the arrival of the Royal Page on horseback, the Boxing Day swim across Mahon harbour :shock: ).

We just love the climate at this time of year and spend many hours walking along the Cami de Cavalls in the sunshine, usually managing to find a little café or bar somewhere for a beer or coffee along the way (even on Christmas Day for the last couple of years, at Punta Prima beach).

We've always been very lucky with the weather (unless that's just how it always is over there), usually having 10 days of sun (sometimes warm enough to have a quick swim in the chilly sea) and very little rain during our festive visits, with the added benefit of it being light until 5.30-6pm. We certainly couldn't imagine having to spend Christmas in the UK now; watching repeats on TV and eating endless tins of Quality Street, the cold, dreary, grey weather. Just wish I was still over there! :cool:

Sue :partyman:

Re: What's it like there over the Xmas break?

Posted: January 3rd, 2020, 7:14 pm
by watta
Happy New Year to you Sue, and a great report, again.

Back to the UK blues then. :sad:


Re: What's it like there over the Xmas break?

Posted: January 4th, 2020, 12:01 pm
by Rickse28
Many thanks, Sue - you're a mine of information. That all sounds really interesting. I must try to get there fully this year. Just have to do some conveyancing in London, and may have to drive my minibus and take the ferry a couple of times to bring my stuff over.
I like what they do there for the festivities - it sounds like an excellent way to make friends. I have ex-patted several times over my life, but this will be the first time I do it with my kids. I have a mate and ex-neighbour who has consistently inspired me to relocate. In his case he chose Estepona on the mainland and has been out there five or six years now. His idea was to rent for a year and look for something to buy at leisure. He has been in the same rental ever since! He's very happy.
His kids were a bit discombobulated at first. I am not sure what his wife thought about leaving London, but she seems to be OK now. They all speak Spanish fluently and apparently correct mum and dad all the time. They send me pix that show them walking about and looking happy and healthy under bright skies over Xmas - just my ticket! My two are doing Espanol in school at Espanol, which will give them some grounding.
I will have to play catch up.
We have one of those infernal Google thingies that talks. I make it work for its living by asking: "Hey Google, what's the weather like on Menorca?" and nearly always it's better there than here. Mid-morning here in London today Sat 4th Jan 2020 shows 10degC and just starting to cloud over. Menorca = 14degC and sunny. No contest!

Re: What's it like there over the Xmas break?

Posted: January 5th, 2020, 8:22 pm
by Sue Adderley
Hi Rick

We realise that it may be too quiet during the winter months, for some, but if you know where to look there does always seem to be something going on, even off-season.

This is a good website although it is all in Catalan :eek: so you will need to use Google translate. Basically it's a diary of events throughout the island, which is v useful.

In terms of learning Spanish, we've used Michel Thomas (on CD/download) in our cars for a few years now and he has a memorable, if a little quirky, way of teaching, which we've found very good. Other than that, the best way of learning is speaking to the locals, never being afraid to ask about words you don't know, or don't understand.

Good luck with everything!

Sue :partyman: