Monday, 9 January 2012

The Kings By Kate

Since we've been back in Bristol, in an effort to try and shore up my dwindling Spanish and encourage Rosie's budding bilingualism, we've been attending a weekly Spanish-speaking playgroup. La Casita has been running for more than twenty years, run by a succession of Spanish and South American parents (well, mums mostly) keen to encourage their own children to keep up their Castillano - and as an Hispanic oasis for themselves.

Latinos are highly sociable beings in my experience and in that vein, La Casita hosts a number of spin-off family parties to keep the group love alive through the year and celebrate a few of the more important cultural events in the Hispanic calendar. One example being the El Dia del Muerte, as mentioned in a previous blog and, a couple of days ago, a fiesta to celebrate El Dia de los Reyes.

For Spanish children, the main present-giving date in the Christmas calendar is Epiphany, January the 6th, when the star-following Three Wise Men turned up with their gifts for the infant Jesus Christ. In Spain it's a huge event and we witnessed the massive parade they put on in Madrid (less than three weeks before the birth of our daughter, as it turned out) where sweets were flung out to the eagerly waiting children (who used stepladders and upturned umbrellas to maximise their catching ability, much to our amusement).

The fiesta put on to mark the occasion by La Casita in Bristol was a far more modest affair, but endearingly Spanish in its friendly but slightly chaotic atmosphere. From the momentary panic that they didn't have enough Kings for the all-important present giving (Theo narrowly escaped being drafted in when other amenable dads stepped in to take on the roles); the determined singing of some Spanish carols by one brave soul while most of the children point-blank refused to join in; the wonderfully hilarious "ninos buenos" speech given by (Caspar? Melchior? Balthazar?) before the gift giving; to the meat-dominated fare in the buffet and the merciful presence of some authentic Spanish turron.Rosie was slightly bemused when it was her turn to approach the improbably bearded "kings" on the stage to get her present, but she received it gracefully enough and even managed a "gracias" when reminded by Theo. She had already raised a few smiles among the people surrounding us when she realised the "kings" were doling out treats from their three huge sacks by shouting, "Regalos! Regalos!" (Presents!) in excitement.

After unwrapping her gift and giving her new book a cursory glance, she spent the rest of the party either running into the kitchen at every opportunity (she was fascinated with the lock on one of the cupboard doors and demanded Theo's keys so she could try and open it); munching a few carefully-chosen items from the buffet; or plonking herself meaningfully in front of a family with loaded plates in the hope they might offer her a biscuit or piece of cake. Theo and I were partly mortified and partly entertained by that last stunt. We have to hand it to our little girl, she's got some chutzpah.

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