Friday, December 25, 2015
Christmas - Extra!
One of the most important Basque Christmas traditions is Olentzero, a charcoal-burner, who comes to town late at night on the 24th of December, to deliver presents for children. There are many variations to the Olentzero traditions and stories connected to him, sometimes varying from village to village.
The first written account of Olentzero is from the 17th century. Around 1952, a folk group (Playing traditional songs and dances) called "Irrintzi elkartea" from Zarautz (a town by the sea in the Basque Country) began to revive the Olentzero traditions and, soon, these traditions began to spread outside their town to the rest of the Basque Country.
Today Olentzero is celebrated all over the Basque Country and co-exists with the Three Wise Men and Santa Claus. Nowadays, Olentzero is depicted as a lovable character, widely attributed to being overweight, having a huge appetite and thirst. He is depicted as a Basque peasant wearing a Basque beret, a farmer's attire with traditional abarka shoes and smoking a pipe. Sometimes his face is stained with charcoal, as a sign of his trade as a charcoal-burner.
On Christmas Eve, groups of people or children carry effigies of Olentzero around on a chair through the streets, singing Olentzero carols.
Marry Christmas, you all!