Christmas in Tenerife.
There is something quite odd about Christmas in Tenerife for anyone who lives in the North of Europe. One of the first things that hits you is clearly the warmth. If you are coming to Tenerife for a Christmas break, you will have been accustomed to some cold weather recently. When you land in Tenerife, the touch of the sun warms you as if it is a summers day back home. If you arrive at night, the warmth of the evening still surprises the body that has been used to cold and damp.
Next, there is the difference in the sunlight hours. The latest the sun will set here is 6pm, whereas in the absolute depths of winter the sun in London, if you can see it, sets at 3.51pm for example.
Finally, for me, one of the weirdest things that hit me on my first Christmas in Tenerife was driving into the northern town of Icod de Los Vinos, where we were staying with my wife’s family, Christmas lights, Christmas Trees, Father Christmas and pretend snow adorned the streets and shops, just as I was used to back home in the UK. In itself, there should be no real surprise, but when you are driving with the window open because it is a bit too warm in the car to have them closed, the Christmas lights and Father Christmas and warm air are, in your mind as a visitor, in stark contrast to each other. Of course, there may well be snow, but that will be on top of Mount Teide at 3,718 metres.
Christmas here is a generally drawn out affair. In the UK for example, you might have to endure Christmas cards and present ideas on the shops shelves from early October, but once Christmas eve arrives, you have Christmas day and boxing day and then until New Year that is pretty much it. Here in Tenerife, Christmas is more of a lengthy event. Christmas eve is generally celebrated with friends and family having dinner together. Talking, eating and drinking the night away and then later in the evening, nearing midnight many of the young children might be given a present from Santa Claus…although it has to be said that this is more of a recent tradition. After that, the teenage members of the family will be off out to meet friends in bars and nightclubs to drink and dance until silly O’clock in the morning.
Christmas day passes without much happening at all, probably a good job as there are plenty of hangovers to try and recover from. In fact, apart from meeting up with friends and family not much really happens from Christmas day up until New Years eve, where most people will be putting on their best clothes…evening dresses and tuxedos are the order of the night and dinners and parties will be enjoyed all over the island.
On the 5th January many towns celebrate the arrival of the 3 Kings. This is a great celebration normally including at least 3 camels and there are children’s choirs singing and speeches made by dignitaries. By midnight the party is all over and people return home only for the children to be rewarded, or not, as the case may be by seeing the presents that the Kings have left them while they were watching their arrival. Some weaker willed parents may allow the presents to be opened there and then and others will wait until the morning of the 6th.
Having spoken to my Father-in-Law yesterday about traditions from the past in comparison to today, which is quite a regular conversation between us, he tells me that the first Christmas trees didn’t start coming into use until about 1957 – 1958 from his memory. I just wondered what the kids in those days must have thought when they saw their first one. For me, it’s always been there, but can you imagine one day the parents saying that they are going to erect a Christmas tree in the house…”a what !!!???”, they must have thought. He remembers cutting the tree down for the home from the forests above Icod de Los Vinos…something you would get arrested for today. Just as the tradition about when to give presents to children seems to be changing towards Christmas day instead of Kings day, so the traditions of yesteryear changed as well…
Personally I love Christmas here, although one thing that I do miss are the crisp winter mornings around Christmas time back in the UK, however; there are only so many of them you can actually put up with in a year.