Thursday, 3 December 2009

Going Native at Christmas on Tenerife

A couple of years ago we spent a week in at our friend’s house on La Gomera just before Christmas. By the time we returned to Tenerife I’d actually forgotten that (A) La Gomera was part of Spain and not Germany (the small valley she lives in is populated mostly by Germans); (B) It is warm in the Canary Islands at Christmas (she lives 1000 metres up at the edge of the rain forest); and (C) it was actually Christmas. Despite Jo’s complaints that the Gomerans were being seduced more and more by sparkly Christmas baubles and lights, I can only remember seeing two houses with sparkly Xmas decorations in their windows.

Tenerife is different, well parts of it are anyway. Here the Tinerfeños have most definitely succumbed to the temptations of rows of twinkling lights and I for one am not complaining.

There can be a perception that opting to spend Christmas in Tenerife’s warm climes means having to sacrifice all that nice Christmassy atmosphere that balances out the madness of packed shopping centres and overspending in the UK and presumably other northern European countries. But it needn’t be the case.

In Tenerife’s historic centres, some councils really go to town and the streets are festooned with elaborate decorations. When darkness falls, plazas in La Orotava, La Laguna and Puerto de la Cruz are transformed into magical places to sit and pass the time. Add some children from the local brass band, practising festive hymns on their instruments to try to earn a bit of extra dosh and the Christmas atmosphere goes up a couple of notches. Throw in the sweet sound of choirs performing concerts in the plaza’s church and elaborate nativity scenes in shop windows and the vestibules of town halls (anyone who enjoys ‘Carry On’ humour should keep a look out for ‘El Caganer’) and suddenly you’ve got a festive atmosphere straight out of Dickens. And if Teide obliges, as it so often does, you get snow with your sunshine and the promise of a white Xmas, even if it is only visible to the eye on the mountain slopes rather than underfoot.

And the best thing about it all is that there’s a lot less of that materialistic madness that has blighted Christmas a bit in Blighty.

The most ‘Christmassy’ memory I’ve got from anywhere ever is of standing outside the Iglesia de la Peña de Francia in Puerto de la Cruz as the local band played Silent Night and the mixed crowd of Spanish, British and German onlookers sang along. It sent a shiver down my spine and brought a tear to my eye (more than one in truth – Andy. my mum, our nephew and myself were almost openly blubbing). It was the most perfect Christmas moment.

However, there are a few cultural differences as well, so check out our Real Tenerife Christmas page and our Tenerife Matters December blogs to make sure that you get the best out of Christmas on Tenerife and don’t get caught out.

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