The next couple of days were spent focusing on keeping my students focused, discussing with them the unparalleled joys of learning the first conditionals clause with “if”, cursing my way through endless report cards, putting the finishing touches on the Christmas charity market we ran every year and preparing for the next meal.
The Christmas dinner. La cena de navidad. Which should not be confused with the feast you engage in on the 25th, that ends up being just another pause to fill up the tank.
The Cena de Navidad is that oversized supper which is the result of an uncontrolled need to gather at this time. All personal circumstances are taken into consideration; and no exceptions are left out.
You have your:
• Company Dinner
• Workmates Dinner (sometimes separate from the former)
• High school classmates dinner
• College classmates dinner
• Cousins dinner
• Friends you met on your summer abroad dinner
• Karate club dinner
• Knitting club dinner
• Hiking group dinner
• Neighbors dinner
• The group of friends you play paddle tennis with dinner
• The group of friends you went on the Camino de Santiago with dinner
• The group of friends you meet when you walk your dog because they also walk their dogs dinner (canines may or may not be included in plan)
• The group of friends who are just a group of friends but you aren’t exactly sure why
And this, of course does not include Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, which is strictly family.
Naturally, one reaches a point at which one senses the dangers of such extended festivities can bring about, and hopes that some of the annual gatherings will somehow cease to be; but unfortunately there is always one member of the group who takes charge and insists that great traditions should not be forgotten! They do this at all cost.
The clear victors here are the restaurants themselves, which rub their greedy hands together come December 1st and the first events. So popular and widespread has this custom become, that the popular places and the popular days are quickly snatched up a months in advance. I know of one joint whose tables for a Christmas Eve event are fully booked on the first of the year. Yes, that’s 358 days before.
I had already crossed out the gastronomic club dinner out as something of the past. Next in line was the post Christmas-market dinner, which in theory included all the personnel from the school, but was voluntary, so the attendees usually numbered around 30. The idea started out as something far more modest in stature and breadth. Years back when we put away the final box of articles that were left over, and we went out for a few celebratory cañas. With the conclusion of each new edition, the numbers grew and so we decided to formalize the event, which included finding a place and a set menu, because there are two very important you need to know about going out for dinner on a Friday night in the middle of December:
1) You’re not going to find a place with room for thirty
2) They aren’t going to let you sit down without agreeing to a set menu.
Proof of this was that I didn’t start hunting for an eatery until late November and by then it was too late to pick my first choice, and so I settled for one where we been to two years before and which had committed the unforgivable sin of overcharging us. Days later we worked out the misunderstanding, and they offered to do it right again. I never took them up on their offer, but now I was willing to give them another chance. Not so for several of the usual crowd. Returning to the same restaurant triggered a debate of such extent that the plan nearly collapsed upon itself. Half the group decided to march off and organize their own dinner, making it clear to me that where they were going to dine was far more important than who they were going to dine with. Such is the meaningfulness of these gatherings at this time of joy, peace, and togetherness.