You have to hand it to the Spanish. They sure know how to make the most of any festive occasion, even when there isn’t any apparent one to be found. They pull it out of their asses and turn an otherwise subdued atmosphere into a little shindig. New Year’s is a fine example. People often ask me what Americans do on New Year’s Eve, because many think the rest of the world stays at home with the family the way they do and prep for gulping down a dozen pieces of fruit at midnight. My audience usually consists of people and pets ranging from 5 years to 75 years of age, and so I forego the part about folks drinking to the brink of language impairment and vomiting as a way of ringing in the New Year and address it with a sugar-coated “They go out”.
Many parties in other parts of the world rage for much of the evening, which is partially explains why people scream and shout like cowboys and embrace with such fervor before tumbling over and breaking the family glass coffee table. It also helps me to understand why the Puerta del Sol seemed so subdued compared to cities of similar size. They were just cranking up, and just as many people from faraway lands were puttering home, the Spanish were out in the streets heading for their first social commitment. I didn’t show up at mine until 2:00a.m.
On top of that, they don’t even need a crowd to have a party. With just six of us at our family gathering, there was more than enough humanity to turn the living room into a makeshift disco, twisting and swaying to some of the 1960s finest one-hit wonders, like “Black is black” (Spain’s first nº 1 in the U.S., believe it or not) or the Shocking Blue’s (a Dutch group, this time) “Venus”, which was revived by Bananarama in the 1980s. These are still no-fail tunes at nearly any Spanish home. Mostly it was the two older sisters who did the dancing, urging the three men, me included, to join in, which we did, though the elderly mother literally sat out. I secretively envied her because after all these years I just don’t find shaking my booty with four people in an apartment and with all the lights on, much less in front of an eighty-year-old woman that natural, who cheerfully clapped along. But then again, if KC and the Sunshine Band (who by the way just played at the Rose Bowl) could go on TV donning goofy funky clothes and repeating the same line over and over for five minutes, I guess I could hold out for a gratuitous for the while for the sake of New Year’s merriment.
The Spanish love this, and I admire them for feeling so comfortable about expressing their joy without the least bit of worry or care about their image. It’s funny, they often cry to me that they can’t speak foreign languages because they are too afraid to look ridiculous in front of others. Then images of middle-aged Spaniards shimmying shamelessly to James Brown come to mind and I just laugh a little to myself. That’s my Spain!