Arcadia W. is currently a junior at SYA Spain. She comes to SYA from Irvington High School (NY). Read more of Arcadia's Campus Reporter work throughout the year here.
Madrid and Barcelona
During the 2016 Holidays, I traveled to Madrid and Barcelona, Spain's two biggest cities with my American family who were visiting. It was definitely different to be together again with my entire family after having been separated for four months. I was able to appreciate things about family that we often take for granted. Being able to recall old memories while making new ones was a great time. After being somewhere completely new, where no one knows much about my past, there is a sense of comfort in being able to refer to old memories with the people who helped make them. In another sense, it was very weird to be with them in the country that I now call "home". Having lived without them for months, it felt as though they were sort of "invading" this new life of mine. Of course I loved seeing them, and enjoyed our time together, but it was definitely a little weird.
Celebrating Spanish traditions
I was lucky enough to celebrate New Year's and Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) with my Spanish family. Their take on these holidays will forever be some of my favorite memories.
New Year's for the Spaniards is quite different than what I had been used to. Normally for New Year's Eve I would wear a nice shirt and hang out with friends, go to a party, the norm. In Spain, New Year's Eve is considered a family event, which, like all of them, lasts for hours! We sat down to a table overflowing with food, conversation and dramatic reenactments. I sat next to my two cousins and host sisters, who are all hilarious. Being able to keep up with the fast-paced, snide jokes was a confirmation of my language improvement. After stuffing myself with the wonderfully displayed foods, my mouth dropped as I was given the main course, a huge plate of salmon and seafood. I soon learned that during the holidays, one meal per day more than suffices! The five hour dinner consisted of tons of laughing, some yelling and even a few flying anchovies! At the countdown to midnight, we ate our pre-packaged 12 grapes, and toasted the New Year with hugs and kisses.
As a first-timer celebrating Reyes, I learned even more about Spanish generosity and had an unforgettable experience. The day began with my host parents handing me gifts from "The Kings", not a bad way to wake-up! At 2pm, we left the house not to return again for another 12 hours. We headed off to "lunch" at my dad's side of the family. Again, we began with an overflowing table of starters, to be followed by paella and later Roscón (typical Spanish cake for Reyes Magos, it usually has prizes hidden inside). Biting down on a piece of cake served by my host-grandma, I was pleasantly surprised to be the winner of 10 Euros! Following the Roscón, we received more presents from the extended family. Spaniards definitely know how to make you feel at home. After saying good bye around 6pm, we drove to our next meal. I was so excited to spend more time with my new cousins, and 30 other family members. We started off by having a sort of secret Santa/Kings gift exchange. Next, one of my cousins dressed up as a king to distribute gifts out to all the children. She was absolutely hysterical, and a good actress as the kids believed she was really a Rey! Afterwards, we sat around and conversed for hours, a typical Spanish activity. The dialogue ranged from politics, to university, to questions about America and more. The hours flew by as I checked my phone and I could hardly believe that it was 1am. What was even harder to believe was that all the five to ten -year olds were still zooming around, making noise! If there is one thing I've learned it's that Spaniards do not sleep. More importantly, I discovered the true generosity and inclusivity of the Spanish culture. On our way out, every family member told me how I was always welcome to come over and stay with them, and that I was part of the family.
Spending the holidays with both of my families was the best gift I could have asked for. Remembering old memories and making ones that will last forever is what the festivities are all about.