It’s that time of year again, when the whole family get together in one place and try and get along for a whole or most of a day. At least, that’s the cultural tradition in both my adopted and native countries, even if they tend to do it slightly differently. Aside from differences in present-giving, which have been discussed previously in this column, what happens after the traditional Christmas lunch also differs in several subtle ways. In my native country there is the traditional Queen’s speech, which even anti-monarchists like myself will tend to watch to get an idea of how the past year is viewed by the privileged few in their castles cut off from the real world of Brexit and rising knife crime – these seeming to me to be two of the most standout elements of British life in 2018.
Then people will often settle down on the sofa to a TV film – The Wizard of Oz and The Great Escape being perennial favourites – and there are always TV Christmas specials of programmes that the British public have been glued to all year, Doctor Who being one, as well as favourite soap operas like Coronation Street and Eastenders, not to mention the ballroom dancing and singing/talent contests.
And then in UK households there are always board games. “Board games? What century are you living in?” I hear you cry. Well yes, the truth is I’m mainly going on distant memory of what Christmas used to be like when I lived in the UK, but with tradition playing such an important role in activities at this time of year, some of it still remains true for many British families. Monopoly and the like always used to get a run out at this time of the year. Not to mention numerous card games.
Why all these distractions? Because the UK doesn’t have the same strong tradition of sobretaula as we see here in Catalonia. In my experience, the Christmas day sobretaula involves lots of raised voices and debate, including the topics of politics and sport, but also often discussing affairs revolving around members of the local community, neighbours, friends and extended family. Torrons and neules seem to be eaten continuously for several hours, the sugar from these sweet delicacies blending with the obligatory coffee and stimulating ever higher levels of enthusiasm and participation in the general debate on whether the woman from over the road has changed her curtains in the last 10 years. Or whether the neighbour’s dog has had the stitches out of his leg wound yet. Or whether the mayor of the town or city is going to finally pull their finger out and get something done, or stop doing what they’ve been doing until now; one or the other.
But to bering this this year’s Christmas column to a conclusion, like others in this magazine, I would like to take the opportunity to express my disgust at the fact that various Catalans will not be able to partake in their family’s Christmas sobretaula again this year due to their being unjustly held in prison without trial, or living exiled from their country and their family. May those responsible for this get nothing of what they wish for this Christmas.