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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas 2007 in Tenerife

Teide on Tenerife, covered with snow. View from north. Photo: Jens Steckert
Whilst I cannot guarantee that it will remain long enough to make a White Christmas, the heavy rains that fell in Tenerife over the last couple of days, at least, left snow on Teide.

You can see the snow on the mountain or around the observatory (clouds, daylight, etc., permitting) via the Canarian Astrophysics Institute's webcam page, or these images.

The Cabildo (Island Corporation) were recommending people not to drive up to the Teide National Park, because of ice and snow on the roadsides. As soon as the weather settles and the front moves off, they'll begin clearing them.

The situation in Tenerife on Tuesday - that also closed schools, caused a few cancellations, delays and detours to some flights - was expected to worsen and, as predicted, did result in the closure of all roads to the park. The good news is that the front bringing this wind, rain and snow will be moving away from the islands entirely Thursday. It already moved to the eastern islands Wed.

The weather forecast for Tenerife for the next 10 days changes to just a bit of party cloudy amongst the mostly sunny, with day time temperatures oscillating around 70°F / 21°C, running right through until Friday, December 28th.

The weather boffins promised us more storms this week after last week's demonstrated that the island was, again, ill prepared for bad weather and that brought more flooding to Santa Cruz and areas around the capital. (And two more days mopping because of leaky roofs here at Secret Tenerife towers!)

It's beginning to look a lot like ChristmasNevertheless, stunning snow scenes, along with pretty poinsettias (both wild ones and the ones planted in the islands' municipal parks and gardens) and pungent pines, combine to make as "Christmassy" an image - the natural one, before it became a commercial holiday - as you're ever likely to find, anywhere on earth.

Around these parts, we have seen very little in the way of Christmas lights this year. We thought that the "Greens Stole Christmas" (sic), but in commercial areas there are plenty and, even if La Laguna is using more than 400,000 Christmas Lights, you can all rest easy that they are low consumption.

It's true that I may be biased about Tenerife having simply everything for your Christmas seasonal enjoyment, but it seems that one or two people might agree with me. For instance, Travelbite say, "The dismal summer of 2007 has created an unprecedented upsurge in the number of Britons planning to spend the festive season abroad this Christmas, with some travel agencies and brokers reporting double the bookings of 2006." The article goes on to describe some of the similarities and differences in Christmas customs in the Canary Islands.

Frankly, we're not surprised at that, or that they also reported a 240% surge in 2-week hols over Christmas with Tenerife among most popular destinations.

Add to this, Santa Cruz will see 64,724 cruise passengers in December ...

So while Christmas holidaymakers are roasting on the beaches ...

Locals, of course, have their Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve, Noche Buena.

The main difference between this Spanish Christmas menu and its Canarian counterpart is that you hardly ever see lamb on these islands. Those who can afford it or eat it, will substitute lamb with a barbecued whole goat kid.

There are numerous other Christmas activities going on all over the island. You may not realize it, but normal people do normal Christmas things here. Those of us who live here actually find it cold at this time of year too. Imagine that! :)

Just the reasonably small town of Icod de los Vinos has an ample selection of more than 50 events and activities for all ages to celebrate the Christmas season. There's a similar list of Christmas events in Garachico and those are just a couple of typical examples of the many that will be repeated in all of the towns on the islands with sports and cultural events - even religious ones too, which is certainly "unusual" related to Christmas these days. :) There's also concerts and cinema for the grown ups and, activities such as bouncy castles, games and Three Kings Parades for the kids ... Or was that the other way around? :)

In Santa Cruz there is a Christmas Market in the old part of the city around the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. It covers 700 square meters and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily until Saturday, December 22nd.

El Gordo is drawn on December 22nd, but not before Canary Islanders have had the chance to spend 91 million euros (an average of 45 euros per person) on this annual, Christmas lottery. And yet it seems to "forget" the islands every year.

On Christmas Day at 10 p.m. in the port of Santa Cruz, the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra offers its traditional Christmas Concert. This unmissable annual musical treat is given free and seating provided for around 20,000.

Secrets of the Traditional Canary Island Nativity

Too lazy to crow for dayMeanwhile, we will be off in search of beléns, or nativity scenes. Most are indeed varied and interesting, though not all contain live chickens, but, according to Jack Montgomery, they do all include a figure of a man "caught short". The mind boggles and we shall be checking this out in more detail, but having read that Catalans Play Find The Crapper With Their Nativity Scenes, we have no reason to doubt it.

The Tenerife History Museum, in the Casa Lercaro in La Laguna have their nativity, this year made in traditional Italian style, but inspired by the countryfolk of Tenerife in the late 18th and first half of the 19th Centuries. It is open from December 4th to January 6th, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The nativity from the Cabildo de Tenerife is, this year, unsurprisingly, dedicated to Teide - named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in June. That display can be seen also between December 4th and January 6th, daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. (with some exceptions listed here).

The 60m2 Portal de Belén de CajaCanarias, can be visited in the vestibule of the organization's building in Santa Cruz, until January 5th.

The Casa de los Capitanes in La Laguna this year has a nativity display consisting of more than 1,000 pieces that date to the end of the 19th Century, including several figures with movement. This is on view in the Casa de los Capitanes from 9.30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., daily (except December 24 and 31 when they open mornings only and Christmas Day and New Year's Day when they will be closed), until January 8th.

Most towns hold their own nativity building contest and, as well as the nativities on show at public buildings, shopping centers and the like, many open private homes to show off their creations too. In La Laguna, they have published a PDF program of the participating nativity scenes that you can go around and visit.

Blog Nacimientos Canarios is keeping us up to date with these traditional nativity scenes in the Canary Islands, which you can also peruse.

Postal workers strike in time for Christmas

Going PostalIf you were expecting any last minute Christmas mail, then you might do better to wait until it is delivered by The Three Kings at Epiphany (January 6th), as 3,000 postal workers in the Canary Islands are on strike Wednesday, Thursday and Friday over pay and conditions.

But then again, the post office in Tenerife did take on 120 new staff for the Christmas period, to ensure levels of quality and regularity of deliveries.

New Year, New Clothes ...

If it's a knees up you want, then you might want to head to Adeje, where the mayor is reported to be planning to spend €39,000 (£27,000) on the End of Year Party. This report, El alcalde de Adeje se gastará 39.000 euros para organizar la Fiesta de Fin de Año en el pueblo, says it like it's a bad thing, likening it to the bread and circuses, offered by roman emperors.

Three Kings strike back at Santa Claus in Spain

Finally, according to this report, "Santa Claus is under attack by his traditional rivals in Spain, the Three Kings, in an advertising campaign."

It sounds just like rapping (shouldn't that be wrapping at this time of year?) (with the ubiquitously rude lyrics) to me, but who can blame them? At the risk of being mugged by the rest of the world's billions of children, that old Santa bloke, when you really think about it, isn't even part of the original story.

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