Friday, December 27, 2013

A day in Oviedo at Christmas

Apart from our Christmas tree and decorations, a neighbour's tiny, climbing Santa Claus scaling her otherwise bare balcony and a rare glimpse of fairy lights through lace curtains as you drive by houses and apartments in nearby Ribadesella, you wouldn't know it's Christmas here. Technically it isn't I suppose as the main event is the Epiphany on the 6th of January, the time when the three kings visit carrying gifts or if you're a western Christian, a celebration of the visit by the Magi to baby Jesus. Northern European customs and traditions are gradually filtering down and many Spanish families now celebrate both; Santa Clause and the birth of Jesus (presents); The visiting Magi and the recognition of the baby Jesus as the son of God (more presents).

We decided to visit Oviedo today to take the opportunity to visit the Artisan fair, the Bethlehem exhibitions in front of Oviedo's main cathedral and the markets. The post Christmas sales haven't started here yet so the city was fairly quiet with people still buying gifts for the 6th January. The Christmas decorations are fairly low-key but tasteful in Oviedo. No doubt it looks very pretty with the addition of overhead Christmas lights adorning most main streets, squares and terraces but that's for an evening trip maybe next week.

The artisan fair is an annual event. A large marquee hosts about 40 artisans selling their creations. We often wonder how they make a living as no-one ever seems to buy very much but we see the same stalls and stall-holders year after year so somehow they keep going even through these tough times. There were many jewellery, ceramics, leather goods, soaps and wood-turners, some lovely objects but nothing you haven't seen before.

The Bethlehem and nativity sets outside the Cathedral were fewer than usual but still very impressive. Large dioramas portraying every aspect of life in Bethlehem and the nativity. This year the exhibition was fenced off and guarded by two police patrol cars which seemed rather over-the-top but there was a nearby street protest by the mining community who were demonstrating at the lack of investment in their futures. The demonstration might account for the police presence.

The indoor and outdoor markets are always a joy to wander. Nothing unexpected on sale but the bright, colourful rows of fruits, vegetables and plants in stark contrast to the icy blue and grey hues of fresh fish or the red raw and cured meats were a feast for the eyes. We bought several specialist teas from Inffusions (how they spell their name) which we will enjoy over the coming winter months.

The city has a gentle pace and I doubt that once the sales start it will change much. There is always an air of grace in Oviedo which is punctuated with fine architecture from the past 100 years and historic structures that now house worship, education, fine art and music. It's just a shame more people don't stop and look, up and from side to side. I am often amused when pointing the camera up to photograph some of the buildings, many people spot you, look skyward to see what photograph you are taking and then do a double take when they see the beauty that reigns above eye level.

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