Friday, December 9, 2011

Pessebre celebrates Christmas story

At last we went to La Selva de Mar, the next village inland from us, to see the Pessebre. We actually went on December 3 but found nothing going on. The mystery was solved when we took a closer look at the poster and saw that the date was the 8th not the 3rd. Here is a good case for wearing glasses! In the meantime we tried to find out what a Pessebre is, but established only that it has something to do with Jesus' crib. Never-the-less, we were in La Selva de Mar promptly at 6pm, our timing confirmed to us by the not very melodious clanging of the church bell. The parking lot on the edge of town was filling up quickly, surely a good sign.

We followed the crowd through the village until we found ourselves in a queue. I'm not really one for queuing. However, we stood in line having a bit of a giggle because, 'what were we going to see?' Then the crowd moved forward and we found ourselves at a ticket table where we dutifully handed over 5€ each. The lady did explain in French that our tickets would lead to food of some kind - a good omen!

As we soon discovered, a Pessebre involves a series of tableaux, one of course depicting the Nativity, but others representing everyday scenes from biblical times.  Locals dress the part and demonstrate ancient skills of carpentry, blacksmithing, pottery, fishing, and farming, or they might just have a display of antique implements. We came upon a lady was cooking dough in an outside oven. Cooked, the dough tasted a bit like a doughnut but not sweet. To wash it down we were offered a  glass flask with a narrow spout. The trick is to tilt your head back, hold the flask up, tip it towards you and if your aim is good send a stream of the contents into your mouth. There is an art to this, which I did not master on my first attempt; my sweater now smells delightfully of sherry!

Next was a nativity scene, with some beautiful horses to represent the animals in the manger. We took a closer look at Mary and Joseph and we had to conclude that Mary, having given birth, had gone out for a bit and left the infant Jesus with grandma. 

The narrow lane ways and ancient stone buildings of La Selva de Mar provided a magical backdrop for the Pessebre. Part of the town has been built astride a narrow steep sided stream. We wended our way past a lady tending crops, while another enacted a fishing scene. At each station a small olive wood fire burned. By now we were reaching the last stations and here more food was provided.  We stopped  to get a piece of multigrain toast with garlic aioli and a piece of cooked ham. Very yummy. At the next display Seamus had a go with the wine but he too had difficulty with his aim. Further along the river Seamus stopped for some kind of cold sausage on bread while I was off getting getting a small cup of thick, hot, home made chicken broth with a pork meatball. It was delicious and well received as it was a bit  chilly by now. As we ate, we watched a lady fashion a pot with her pottery wheel.

We wandered back to the village centre where vendors were selling sausage meats, cheeses, and baked goods. As luck would have it, someone was also selling those packs that you heat in the microwave for your aches and pains. Just what we were looking for - perfect for heating the bed at night! We bought two.

So that is a Pessebre. For us it was a lovely outing in a beautiful spot, adding a little more to our appreciation of Catalan culture. We wondered what the evening meant to the dozens of locals who attended: part social event; part entertainment; part tradition; but for some definitely an opportunity to celebrate what they value in the Christmas story.

Note: someone didn't think to bring a suitable camera; but we did manage to extract some photos, which are posted in an album on the sidebar.

1 comment:

Ed Preston said...

Found this by Goggle'ing "pessebre" as I saw a photo by a Spanish photgrapher from a Pbase site. Looks like you had an enjoyable trip! Thank you for sharing.