Christmas in Spain
December has been a really busy month for us teachers in Zaragoza. The month started off well with a few days holiday. The Spanish had a public holiday from the 5th December to the 8th December, celebrating El dia de la constitución. This gave us an opportunity to visit some of the small villages in the south of Aragon, close to Teruel. The highlight was definitely the village of Albarracin. A UNESCO world heritage site, Albarracin is a great place to visit with a nice castle and beautiful scenery. It really was an unreal site, that has been very well preserved. If you are around Aragon, it is definitely worth a visit. Aside from the break at the beginning of the month, I have been working very hard, setting exams and writing reports. December is a busy month in the teaching world! Fortunately, all this is over now so we can look forward to the holidays.
My pictures from Albarracín. For more information see http://www.albarracin.org/
Christmas has certainly arrived in Zaragoza, and the decorations around the city are looking very nice. Christmas over in Spain is as important as in Spain, but it is celebrated in a different manner. For example, on 6th January, Spaniards celebrate the Epiphany with a visit from the Three Kings, who bring gifts for the children. These two links (in English) will give you an in site into how Spaniards celebrate the Christmas holidays
Although there are some similarities between Christmas and Spain and the UK, there are lots of differences on the way Christmas is celebrated. In the city centre, the lights are very nice, with many banks and shops like El Corte Ingles displaying gigantic Christmas lights. Whilst in England the Christmas tree is normally a centre piece in the City centres, the Belen is the main attraction during Christmas. Belen (Spanish for Bethlehem), is an almost life-size Nativity scene, which takes up most of the main square in Zaragoza. What has surprised me most it the popularity around the nativity, with big queues to enter the free exhibition. Also, the donkey rides for children that go around the nativity scene is something that would never happen in the U.K. Christmas doesn’t seem to be as commercialised in Spain as much as it is in the U.K. Also, it seems that there is an even bigger focus on family during the holidays in Spain, which can be seen by the amount of family meals they celebrate.
News from Spain
At the moment, there have been no real changes in Spain, given that Mariano Rajoy was only inaugrated as the Prime Minister today (19/12/11). As Spanish government is in transition, there have been no dramatic decisions taken, and the country await the plans of the Popular Party. This week, Mariano Rajoy will name his ministers, and the Spanish public will find out more about what awaits them in terms of cuts and austerity. Today, in his inauguration, Rajoy has laid out some of his plans, with the main ones being;
- Pension reform – following on from Zapatero increasing the age of retirement to 67, Rajoy wants to reduce the number of people who take early retirement and increase pensions.
- A new labour reform – To tackle the drastic youth unemployment figure, the state will pay the social security for the first year of a contract given to a young person who is being employed for the first time.
- An extra year of bachilerato for students – Students will have to study Bachilerato ( similar to A levels in the U.K) for an extra year in order to prepare them better for university studies.
- Less bank holidays to increase productivity – according to the European Quality of Life index, a U.K worker should expect to work 13 more days a year than a Spaniard –
However, although he has said that he will reduce the deficit by €16.5 million, he has remained quiet on how he will do this exactly. He has not mentioned how he will deal with problems such as ETA and their cease fire, or if he will reform the abortion law of 2009, which the PP have been strongly opposed to.
Over the next few months these questions will need answering, and the Spanish public, who acknowledge the need for austerity and cuts, will want to see results. A survey by El País this weekend showed that there had been no change over voting indications, and Rajoy has a clear mandate to push through reforms that were started by Zapatero Over the next few months there will be big cuts in the Autonomies run by the PP, and no area will be left unaffected. As someone who works in a Public School in Spain, it seems that the battle lines are already being made against the government, with many teachers in schools around Spain wearing green t-shirts with the slogan Edcuacion Publica si – Recortes no (State funded education yes – cuts no). The teachers fear that other autonomies will follow the Madrid model, with the PP leader of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, reducing the number of interns and assistants in schools, whilst increasing teaching hours. As a result, there will be more students per teachers, which will certainly affect the quality of the teaching and the students results,
My first four months back in Spain have been very enjoyable, and have flown very fast. I will be back in the U.K for two weeks and I will be looking forward to getting back home for a rest.
Gracias a todos que me han ayudado estos primeros meses en España de nuevo. He aprendido mucho más sobre la sociedad española, y sigo pasándomelo bien como el otro año. Después de la navidad escribiré más en castellano, pero espero que me hayáis entendido bien en inglés. Que os lo paséis bien durante las vacaciones navideñas, y nos veremos después de la navidad.
Happy Christmas everyone