Spanish holidays of Julen, Angel, Alex and Dani
23.12.2018, 15:46

Spanish holidays of Julen, Angel, Alex and Dani

The Spaniards from Kielce talk about their plans for Christmas, New Year and Epiphany. Who eats snails on Christmas Eve, who takes part in the New Year's race, and whose best Christmas gift was Playstation? Alex and Daniel Dujshebaev, Angel Fernandez and Julen Aginagalde talk about the Christmas traditions of their country.

– When I was a kid, I got a Real Sociedad T-shirt for Christmas – Julen thinks for a moment, as if recalling the moment of unpacking a gift carefully wrapped in colorful paper – Mom made a prank on me and said that this year we do not have enough money and that is why I will just get some T-shirt. I was holding this package in my hands, I opened it, and what I saw was... THAT T-shirt! That was the best gift I ever got!

Gifts are an immanent element of the Spanish holiday season, although, as it turns out, not necessarily of the Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, as it is in Poland.

– According to Basque tradition, we give each other gifts on December 25th, in the morning, just like in the USA – says Julen – but also on January 6th, on Epiphany.

– Angel, what Christmas gift do you remember the best? – Angel pricks up his ears after hearing a question asked in Polish and Julen translates it to the wing player into Spanish, just in case. And he, in English in turn, answers without hesitation:

– Bike! When I was a kid, I dreamt of a bike. Interestingly, it was yellow because yellow is my favorite color – the Spaniard laughs.

Well, we got the perfect match with the club colors then. Dani joins the conversation.

– And for me, the most important thing is to spend Christmas with my family. This is the greatest gift for me – the elder of the Dujshebaev brothers smiles. His colleagues tactfully try not to laugh.

– All right, all right, admit it was Playstation! – Julen screams out.

Dani hesitates for a moment moving his head, as if he wanted to draw an overturned eight in the air, but eventually he yields under pressure.

– Okay, maybe it was Playstation – he says with a wide smile – Alex and I play a lot and we got it once for Christmas, it was great!

Speaking of the devil. Alex is walking towards us from the locker room. We are sitting in the stands at Hala Legionów before one of the last training sessions of the team from Kielce in November.

– Alex, it’s your turn! What Christmas gift gave you the most fun? – the back-court player receives a question as soon as he gets close enough to hear our voices.

– Well... I don't know... – he thinks for a moment, slowly climbing the steps. When he reaches the right level, he looks at his brother – Playstation?

The Spaniards burst out laughing. The conversation about holidays takes place in an unexpectedly warm atmosphere. The players are excited to share their memories of this period, exchange views and surprise themselves with the traditions of their homes. You can see that Christmas is a really important time for them, when they can recharge their batteries, heavily exploited by the season, and spend beautiful moments with their families they rarely see.

– A lot of people say they do not like Christmas and I love it! – Julen says – I was born in December, it is a great time. In my case, we do not celebrate much, especially not on 24th and 25th, we pay much more attention to New Year's Eve and the Epiphany.

– But before Christmas comes, there is an event in Spain that focuses the attention of the whole Spain, isn’t it? – I ask.

– Yes, Lotería de Navidad! This is a big national lottery that takes place on the 22nd December, but I don’t know what this is all about, really! I guess people get some extra salaries in the week before Christmas and buy lottery tickets for that money! – the pivot jests.

– I do not buy it, there is no way to win! – Angel adds.

– My brother and his team buy such a ticket, because that is what it is all about – Julen explains – tickets are expensive, so you usually buy it in groups, for example I chip in with my friends.

– And what other Christmas traditions are practiced in Spain?

– In my region we have a strongly rooted tradition of carol singing – Julen is a perfect leader of this conversation – we walk around the houses, sing, families give us something to drink or loose change that we collect and make dinner for it. I used to walk around like this with my friends for a long time, it's been fun! I haven't done it in years. We also have Olentzero, which is the Basque version of Santa Claus.

– Is he an overweight man, dressed in rags who likes to drink?

– That's right! – Julen smiles – Last Christmas my brother dressed up as Olentzero, drove around his town at night and gave presents.

– And in my village, Astillero, together with my family and friends, we take part in a popular race, but it's not until New Year's Eve – Angel adds – You have to dress up in some strange, funny outfits!

– Also for us more important are the New Year and Epiphany, when processions walk throughout Spain, throwing around caramel candies for children – Dani says – we celebrate New Year's Eve together with our family.

– And you're going to the party together?! – I'm asking surprised.

– No, no! – Alex laughs – I go to a party with my friends, but we are spending December 31 together. We have a custom that at midnight, every time a clock strikes...

– Ding! Ding! – Julen is having a great time imitating the clock.

– have to eat one grape. Twelve in total. You know, just for luck. – Alex ends.

– And the party ends with a breakfast, where you have to eat churros! – Angel screams out.

– Or garlic soup... – Julen adds ironically, and everyone bursts out laughing. I think they know the story well – I once had breakfast with a friend of mine and he had a tradition of eating garlic soup for breakfast, which looked like... beer! Really! So I took it and poured in this beer. I quickly realized there was something wrong with it!

– Speaking of food, what do you guys eat at Christmas Eve dinner?

– Snails! – Julen screams out.

– Yes – nods Angel in assent.

– Oh, really? Alex, Daniel, you too?

– No, we don't – Alex laughs – but there are shrimps on the table, seafood in general, ham, and many, many different dishes.

– And what time do you start dinner? Much later than we do in Poland, I assume.

– At about 9, 10 p.m. – Julen says.

– At my place at 10 p.m. – Angel says – we eat, talk and then play games such as bingo or card games.

– At my place around 9:30 p.m. – Alex adds – We spend time with our family until midnight, and then we go out with our friends.

– Yes, that’s right, after midnight we go out to a party – Julen says – I once wanted to go out with my friends, I went home to change my clothes and... I woke up the next morning sleeping on a bed in the same clothes.

We burst out laughing again. What a partygoer our Julen is! And what a storyteller. After a moment of friendly making fun of their buddy, Alex, Dani and Angel pat him on the shoulder, and Julen gets a little serious and sums up the holidays in one sentence.

– We are so far away every day and the most important thing is to be with our family, that's why I love to come home for Christmas.