Tomorrow begins Christmas celebration in Catalonia. It is a time to spend with the family, sharing meals, singing songs, playing games and chatting about everything. Nowadays the celebration is not necessarily religious, meaning that families that are not Christian Catholic follow the celebration anyway but without prayers and skipping mass.
Close relatives gather on Christmas Eve for a family dinner. This dinner will vary a little from house to house. The most common at present is to eat seafood, which is usually expensive during Christmas time. If the budget of the family can afford it, there will be shrimps or king shrimps, oysters, lobsters, caviar, barnacles, winkles, mussels, clams and king crab.
After dinner, the “tió” -a log that for weeks children at home have been “feeding” and taking good care of it- will “poo” presents. There is a special song that has to be sung by everybody meanwhile children hit him with a stick and of course the Tió has to be well covered with a blanket because he needs a bit of intimacy! This is a celebration that only takes place in Catalonia, nowhere else in Spain.
After dinner and the cagatió, the family will stay together until late, chatting and eating neules, torrons -nougat of many varieties- and drinking cava -Catalan sparkling wine similar to champagne-. Perhaps some will have a glass of sweet liquor such as ratafia or garnatxa. In Christmas time you are supposed not to worry about calories!
On the following day, 25th of December, extended families will gather for lunch. For most of the families this is the sole day of the year they are all together: grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, etcetera. Typically this Christmas lunch takes place at the grandparents.
The starter will be the typical Catalan Christmas soup: Sopa de Galets. It is a soup made of many different types of vegetables and meats, black and white sausage, the ears and feet of pork, potatoes, carrots, chickpeas, the pilota -a type of spiced minced meat. All of these ingredients are served apart -if served at all- because the main dish is this rich and tasty broth with galets -snail-shaped pasta pieces big as a soupspoon! This soup will warm you up and it is likely you will want some more but you know you rather wait because then comes the roaster! The roaster is cooked in the oven and stuffed with dried fruits: plums, apricots and pine nuts.
Certainly Christmas lunch is a long and tasty meal that will last a couple of hours. The table talk will last a few more hours; there will be table games, singing or other activities depending on the energy and creativity of each family. Guests will be having some more torrons, neules and cava.
The third -although it is not the last Christmas lunch yet- will be on St Stephen’s day, 26th December. This is only celebrated in Catalonia; in the rest of Spain it is not even a bank holiday. The appetizer will vary but the main course will be canelons. Cannelloni are typically stuffed with roasted or minced meat and sometimes now with fish or vegetables. The idea is that left over food from the previous Christmas meals is used to cook this tasty canelons, which will be covered with béchamel sauce and will be grilled with cheese.
Do you know what will we have as dessert? Neules, torrons and cava, of course!
Bon profit! (Bon appétit!)