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Iím Dreaming of a Navidad Blanco Ė Xmas on Tenerife
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Contributed by Jack Montgomery   
Tuesday, 18 December 2007

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The idea of spending Christmas in warm sunshine attracts thousands of visitors to Tenerife for the festive season every year, but for me it’s the traditions and the atmosphere in Puerto de la Cruz and similar Canarian towns which make the festive season a special time.

Christmas lights in Plaza de la IglesiaEnchanting fairy lights hang from nearly every tree in the old town; groups of children play Xmas tunes on brass instruments in an attempt to earn extra dosh for ‘Tres Reyes’; elaborate beléns (nativity scenes) appear in plazas and shop windows (look out for the man ‘caught short’; he’s always there) and familiar Christmassy tunes, albeit with Spanish lyrics, blast out from shopping centre sound systems. In Plaza de la Iglesia there’s an emotional Christmas concert, courtesy of the local band (Friday 21st December this year). When they strike up ‘Silent Night’ and a mix of Spanish, German and British voices join in, it’s a beautiful moment which sends a shiver down the spine. To cap it all, Mount Teide usually has a covering of snow, which is just the icing on the Christmas cake.

On Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) families gather in their homes for a feast before heading to the local church for the Misa del Gallo (Midnight Mass). If staying in a Canarian town, rather than a resort, eat early. By 9-ish nearly every restaurant in Puerto will be shut and those ignorant of local customs could find themselves stranded, stomachs rumbling on deserted streets.

The first snows of the year on Mount TeideWhereas Nochebuena is a low key family affair, celebrations really hot up for Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve). The best party in many towns take place around the main square. In Puerto de la Cruz, couples from seven to seventy in DJ’s and party dresses congregates around Plaza del Charco to see out the old and welcome in the new. To ensure good luck for the coming year red underwear is a must. I’m not sure if that applies to men as well, but it’s important that you haven’t bought them yourself.
As the old year comes to an end, everybody gathers at the harbour, each with their little bunch of 12 grapes; one for each toll of the bell on the countdown to midnight. Once I accidentally brought seeded grapes and my New Year nearly started and ended with me choking on the cobbled streets, conclusive proof that it’s bad luck not to eat all your grapes by the time the bells strike midnight.
At midnight a firework display which has the crowds ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ (apparently they’re the same in any language) lights up the harbour waters. Then it’s party time; live bands turn the plaza into an all night open air street party.

After that it’s the kids’ turn with the arrival of the ‘Tres Reyes Magos’, the Three Wise Men. Pressies aren’t exchanged here until 6th January; the date that the three kings showered their gifts on the baby Jesus. On the 5th January In towns all over the island, the kings make their arrival as part of a flamboyant procession (in some towns they actually arrive on camels).

And then that’s it, the festivities are over and it’s time to recover strength in time for the next big bash, Carnaval, which is…let me see…all of three weeks later!

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