I attended a party with high schoolers tending the bar and got locked in a bathroom stall while at the city sponsored Carnival Fiesta last weekend. Like so many other of our experiences it was tinged with both the familiar and the novel.
Carnival is not something our family usually celebrates. I know its celebrated around the world and in the U.S. the most famous carnival is Mardi Gras celebrated in New Orleans. The girls were familiar with New Orleans thanks to Tiana and Disney. But more familiar to us is making and exchanging Valentines Day cards, a nonreligious holiday and therefore still acceptable in American schools. While Carnival itself is not a religious holiday, it’s roots are in Roman Catholic countries and is most decidedly celebrating the religious season of Lent. Carnival occurs in the week (or so) leading up to the beginning of Lent. The festivities include dressing in costume, eating, drinking, dancing, parades and celebrating before Lent.
Here in Buitrago there was a city sponsored Fiesta for children and another for adults last Saturday. On Thursday, the kids school held a parade through the village which each grade level dressed as different Ancient Civilizations. They have been working on their costumes at school for quite some time. Amelia is Ancient Egypt. Violet’s class are Aztecs and Clara’s class are Greeks.
An hour before the city sponsored Carnaval Fiesta last Saturday, I read the flyer the kids had brought home from school. Come dressed up! So the girls dug out their Angel and Cowgirl costumes from Halloween, put on their wings and cowgirl hat and off we went. There was face painting, crafts and a magician for the kids. For the adults there was a cash bar that was supporting the city soccer team. The high school athlete’s themselves were tending bar. It was quite out of place for us to see a bar in the school gym, cans of beer alongside crafts being made and even more odd for the high school sophomore and juniors to be tending the bar. Jeff wanted to order a mixed drink just to say he was served by high schoolers. And the bathroom stall I was locked in? I should have known better, Amelia warned me of the pitfall of this particular locker room toilet, but modesty got the best of me and I wanted the door shut. I went in, I shoved the door shut only to then realize the handle didn’t actually work and I was no unable to open the door. There was an eight inch clearance at the bottom so up and over I climbed!
At the end of the celebration, all the kids were called up on stage in groups of 1 or 2 to model their costumes. Amelia & Violet went up on stage. The MC was so confused by English speakers in Buitrago. A couple of the moms I know, yelled up on stage “They don’t understand!” in Spanish. To which the MC laughed and said “Ingles en Buitrago??” I felt a like maybe I was the butt of a joke. I probably am more often as well…I just don’t know about it! We do stick out and we do live in a small town and I was climbing over the walls in the locker room bathroom. We ended the evening with the task of carrying home wet, glitter glue craft projects several blocks in the cold. At home, we all clamored in bed together to watch yet more Netflix. There was also an adult party hosted by the city at the school gym that started at 11:30pm featuring disco and dancing. Jeff & I stayed hibernating in bed with our three little girls.
Amelia is preparing in school for a Carnival. We had a small list of items to purchase and the name of the store in Buitrago to purchase them at. She really had no idea what kind of Carnival they were preparing for. I blew off until I got an ad in the mail that had halloween-type costumes in it and they were labeled “Carnaval”. Made me think, maybe this Carnival is bigger than a random school project. Turns out it’s a Mardi Gras type festival in the days leading up to lent. Parades, people dressed up, drinking, celebrating all night. There are many cities in Spain that have large celebrations and a Mardi Gras type celebration didn’t even come to mind when Amelia mentioned a Carnival. I was thinking games and face painting. She is making Egyptian Head-dresses. Madrid does have a celebration, but from what I’ve read it’s not as extravagant as others in Southern Spain. I guess we’ll have to go to Madrid to find out if carnival is more a Paczki eating day or a flash your boobs kind of day.
Ad with Carnaval costumes.
We celebrated Three Kings Day back on January 5th here in Buitrago. It was an interesting festival to experience. It was also a difficult night all around. Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) is representing the three wise men bringing gifts to Baby Jesus. Children in Spain expect a visit from Reyes Magos on the night of January 5th where they bring the children presents and leave them in their shoes. It is also traditional to eat a Roscon which is a doughnut shaped bread/pastry with jelly-gummy candies with a plastic toy buried inside. They were sold at all the grocery stores. We did not end up having one. So onto the festival….
We gathered in Buitrago preparing for a parade. The girls were excited. I saw other kids with bags; which tipped me off that this may be a “candy-excessive” parade. While they were waiting in their place on the street, I stopped into the bank ATM to get rent money out. And the ATM ate my card. AHH!!! Jeff had stayed at home to get some stuff done, the girls were out on the street by themselves, the crowds were accumulating, an old man who knew me as the “American with three girls” was trying to help me by calling the bank (which was closed for the holiday) and I was freaking out that now I could not get access to my money. I call Jeff, he comes to stand with the girls and by the time I rejoin them there is a Smurf (??) themed parade and teenagers from Jeff’s school are not tossing but whipping hard candies at him and his family. There were approximately four floats in the parade (it’s a small town) with the last one having the Three Kings. After the parade went by, it made it loop and headed back into the main plaza of town which was set up with three King’s chairs and a red carpet to receive the kings. We gathered along side the red carpet while hoards of children gathered near the beginning of the red carpet. They clearly were in the know. The parade stopped and those on floats paraded up the red carpet to the thrones of the Three Kings. This procession included angels, soldiers, Smurfs, SpongeBob and the Three Kings along with their court. The court included a teenager painted with brown skin to match the King he was with. Strange and also, not acceptable in the U.S. The children that were lined up at the end of the red carpet were waiting to sit on the Three Kings laps. Afterwards, the kids got hot chocolate and churros. We ran home for a bit – the line was long! Basically, the line was all the children in the village. We went back just as the line was dying down. As was my camera – so no photo’s of my own children sitting on the laps of the Three Kings.
I was in the mood for staying out among the crowd and excitement and to enjoy the night. The girls and I went for a walk further down into town towards the castle walls. Unfortunately, Clara and Amelia were fooling around running on the sidewalk and it ended badly. Clara got her foot wrapped up in yellow caution tape, fell off the curb onto her back, the metal barricade the caution tape was tied to then fell off the curb and onto Clara’s body and forehead. A stranger jumped out of their car to grab up Clara before I got a chance to get there. I thought for sure Clara was going to open her mouth to scream and it’d be void of teeth. Luckily it was not. But it wasn’t great either – her lip was bleeding, her forehead and nose were already bruising. I scooped Clara up, still sobbing uncontrollably. And had she not been concerned where her candy bag from the Three Kings had gone I’m pretty sure the strangers in the car would have called a for ambulance (although it was literally a block away). I went home after this. I was spent.
Her forehead and bridge of the was quite bruised.