As with Aurelio Montoiro, from Huesca, this will be for many the Christmas of the first times. Elderly people who will dine alone because of their children’s fear of sentencing them for contagion .
Foreigners who will not be able to travel to see their families. Patients in quarantine due to the pandemic . Truckers who will sleep in their cabins, trapped in the UK by border closures . Neighbors such as those of El Ripollès and La Cerdanya , who made plans until a drastic perimeter confinement occurred.
Homeless or familyless, that for the first time they will not find refuge where they always found it. With the restrictions imposed for the holidays, thousands of Spaniards will not return home for Christmas today, although others will break the rules convinced that their clandestine date is not going to enlarge the size of the third wave.
The uncertainty when calculating the number of servings has delayed purchases until the last minute, some have decided to make their debut in the kitchen and many will have to spend the night hospitalized or simply locked in their roomFor caution.
Others, more fortunate, will be able to see their faces in front of a tablecloth, even by videoconference, or keeping distances of two meters. “We will go hoarse home because we will have to shout more”, assumes Chus Iglesias from Compostela; but “our spirit”, remember, is still “eating as a family”.
Aurelio Montoiro, Huesca: “It is what there is and it is what we have to do in conscience”
For Aurelio Montoiro it will be the first time that on the 24th he does not have dinner with his three children; She will also be at the helm for the first time to cook on Christmas Eve and will be left with the desire to see her three young grandchildren running around together – the oldest are already teenagers – who until a year ago barely knew how to walk.
He was also the first to warn his family of the risks of meeting with a pandemic about to turn into a third wave.
Aurelio, a 72-year-old retired cabinetmaker, takes these setbacks with resignation, despite the fact that it is precisely at this time when he can gather a family in his home in Huesca that the rest of the year is scattered between Bonn (Germany) -where Marcos resides , his first-born
Zaragoza -where his daughter Raquel and one of his granddaughters live-; and Madrid – where her young son, Hugo, works and the youngest of her grandchildren crawls-; without forgetting that his two oldest grandchildren are in Bangor (Northern Ireland).
“Seeing how bad the situation was in Huesca due to the covid, I was the one who told Marcos how he was going to come; my daughter is a doctor and she herself, as a precaution, decided that she was not coming either, just like Hugo ”, she explains. “It is what there is and it is what we have to do in conscience,” he abounds.
But Aurelio has not resigned himself to spending these holidays alone. For his childhood friend, Tomás Jiménez, 68, the pandemic has also deterred him from going down to Teruel to spend Christmas with his sister and nephews.
“Being the two of us, last week we decided that we would have dinner together at home and what we had left over we would eat the next day,” he says with ease. On Monday they went to buy the fish for the barbecue that will be roasted on the 24th and a shoulder of lamb for the 25th.
“I don’t think it will go wrong because everything is grilled and baked and I already have experience of cooking alone,” he says. with a smile.
Aurelio has faced moments of extreme hardship in his life, such as the loss of his wife, Tere, 16 years ago. Spending Christmas Eve away from his family is a small trance that he faces with a fortitude that does not prevent him, however, from leaving a trace of nostalgia.
“It will be a shame not to be able to see the little ones play around, because these are dates for them, but it is what there is,” he says. A first time, however, he hopes that it will be the last.
Chus Iglesias, Santiago: “I’m going to miss 200 friends, because this year only 100 will come”
For 26 years now, Chus Iglesias and her husband, Serafín Varela, have received in Santiago for Christmas Eve and Christmas all homeless or unaccompanied people who want to celebrate the holidays “as a family.”
They began to organize their “evenings for lonely hearts” after losing their eldest daughter, in the bar-steakhouse they ran, Paluso, before disappearing, and continued to do so after; currently in a huge tent that the City Council sets up in the Alameda.
A little over a decade ago there were 50 diners and last year there were almost 300. People from various municipalities who have never had to register. Just show up there. Pilgrims, forgotten grandparents, lawyers, homeless people, entire families without resources have sat at the same table.
Chus knows the name of the stalwarts by heart, but he never asks them about their lives or what leads them to seek warmth among strangers. Until a few days ago, this year the couple did not know if the traditional Paluso party could be celebrated or they would have to settle for distributing the banquet in take out bags.
More and more volunteers are helping this couple and their youngest daughter cook and serve. Meats are bought thanks to donations, but this year it has been difficult to get them despite the support campaign organized by well-known Galician characters and the video broadcast by the city’s firefighters.
Chus continues to be the soul and the force that keeps the event alive, despite the fact that he has been fighting cancer for two years, with successive surgeries that “always fit in November”.
To guarantee sanitary measures, the tent has grown and has a capacity for 380 people, but only 100 will be able to enter, so they have had to sign up previously. For the first time, the lonely “will eat at separate tables and families, if they are very large, will have to divide into two.”
“The distances of two meters between people and three between tables will be kept; New masks will be distributed at the entrance and the children, who have been around for 14 months, will have to play in their place. There will no longer be a playground ”, describes the former hotelier.
The hotel industry has reduced the capacity to 50%, but “the palusos ” are “even more restrictive”. “I’m going to miss 200 friends”, recognizes Iglesias with regret while packing gifts and taking care of the washing machine where he disinfects the stuffed animals with which the little ones will play.
“Our spirit is to eat as a family,” he continues, “so take-out didn’t seem like a good alternative. We will be physically estranged, but we will continue together, although we will go home hoarse because we will have to shout more ”.
And Santa Claus won’t be here after midnight. “We will not wait for him. It will come on the 25th, and it will bring a surprise like never before ”.
Juan Cantón, Madrid: “I will have dinner with a video call. I am confined “
The coronavirus has dismantled the Christmas plans of Juan Cantón, 28. He went out last week to dinner with some friends in Madrid. A day later, the group learned that one of the attendees was infected.
“We respect security measures, but we were together and we took off our mask every time we ate, so on Saturday I went for a test,” says Cantón. Although the result was negative, he must remain confined to his apartment for at least 10 days, until the test is repeated on Sunday.
He regrets not being able to spend Christmas Eve with his family, which he attributes to a stroke of “bad luck”. Cantón is a doctor and has dealt with the coronavirus for months at the Severo Ochoa Hospital in Leganés. “I have had the virus close every day and at no time have I had a risk contact. Just when these dates arrive, this happens ”,
Canton has never missed a Christmas Eve and this is not going to be the exception, even if it has to be saved with ingenuity. “I will make a video call with my family during dinner to talk and feel that I am with them,” he says.
His parents and brother will bring him a helping of the Christmas menu before going to his grandmother’s house, where they will join the rest of his family. Canton now remembers Christmas with special nostalgia in a room full of people, games with his cousins and Christmas carols sung loudly.
“This year, December 24 will not have anything special, it will be like any other day,” he says. He will spend Christmas Eve alone, confined to his room to avoid any contact with his roommate and will dedicate himself to reading and studying English. For this young healthcare worker, responsibility comes first.
Mafe Ginnari, Barcelona: “I will miss hugging my parents. I have not been with them for a year “
It is the first Christmas that Mafe and Daniel Ginnari will celebrate away from their family. Aged 26 and 30 respectively, Mafe and Daniel are brothers, Venezuelans forced by the economic and social crisis to emigrate from their country.
She works in a publishing house in Barcelona and he is a personal trainer in Madrid. They will spend the holidays together at her house. “I’m going to miss a lot not being able to hug my parents. I have not been with them for a year, ”says Mafe.
2020 is the first of the eight years that she has been an expatriate, that Mafe has not been able to visit her family in Caracas. Connections with Venezuela are already complicated, but with the pandemic it is even more difficult to return to your country.
One option is to take the so-called “humanitarian flights” managed by the Embassy in Madrid, but these prioritize urgent cases and, furthermore, they are not regular.
Another alternative would have been to make a stopover in a third country, such as the United States, the Dominican Republic or Panama, the Ginnari say, but the uncertainty of whether they would close borders and quarantines advised against it.
The most important celebration for Venezuelans is Christmas Eve. The Ginnari brothers will spend it with Mafe’s partner and a friend. In Catalonia, Christmas gatherings of up to 10 people are authorized, with a maximum of two coexistence groups.
The menu will be based on traditional Venezuelan dishes: chicken salad, ham bread and especially the Hallas, a tamale wrapped in fig leaf, made with corn dough, meat stew, capers and raisins, among other ingredients.
Like the rest of the 4.5 million compatriots in the diaspora – according to data from the International Organization for Migration – the Ginnari brothers assumed the role of Wise Men of misery: they took advantage of their return home to carry essential products that are difficult to find in Venezuela, especially hygiene and health.
“I have given a friend who has gone to Venezuela some medicine to take away,” adds the little Ginnari.
Cecilia López, Puigcerdá: “We have received the news of the closure with the suitcases packed”
For the first time, Cecilia López will spend part of Christmas away from her parents. This 38-year-old resident of Barcelona used to travel with her husband and daughter to Puigcerdá (Girona), in the Cerdanya region, which was confined by the Generalitat this Tuesday.
“We received the news without expecting it, with our bags packed,” says López. She has been reunited with her family only once since the pandemic began. Now, it hurts him especially not to spend time with his mother, 58, who suffered from covid in March and has inherited important consequences.
“We had been waiting for these dates for a long time to go see them and overnight, we found out that we cannot go,” he says.
López looks for alternatives to rescue the Christmas spirit of his daughter, nine years old, who received the news between sobs. They will make a video call with the family at dinner and will telematically celebrate the Catalan tradition of Tío de Nadal (Christmas log), whereby the little ones in the house sing and hit a wooden log from which they get gifts.
“We will try to make the grandparents see that moment and feel the illusion of the girl,” says López, although he acknowledges that it will not be the same. Your Christmas will be very different without the walks along the river in Puigcerdá, without playing with the family dogs in the open air and without seeing your childhood friends.
Although that is not the most important thing. “What I’m going to miss the most is hugging my parents, eating with them and my two brothers around a table,” he says.
He acknowledges that health comes first, but is distressed at not being able to predict what will happen next. “I’m afraid the restrictions will get longer after Christmas and I won’t be able to see my parents for many months.”
Spanish truckers trapped in the United Kingdom without being able to cross the strait due to the closure of the borders after the appearance of a new variant of the coronavirus. “I’ve been here since Sunday, after unloading the oranges. We are waiting to do a PCR and to usher in the Eurotunnel. I don’t know where I’ll be on Christmas Eve …
I suppose some Spanish drivers will have dinner together if we’re still in England, ”he says in the Midway area, 70 kilometers from London, where a hundred trucks are parked.
You have yours stocked with food and drink. “We are always prepared, because other times we have been stopped by a strike in France or by other things, but never anything like that ”, says the driver of Grupo Mazo, based in Alzira. “My wife is used to being alone, but hey, it tastes bad to me: this time I won’t be able to arrive for Christmas Eve,” he adds.
Two families from Valencia: the disagreement of getting together or not getting together. The celebration of the Christmas holidays in the middle of the pandemic is causing tensions within the family, in addition to the problems derived from breaching the restrictions in each autonomy.
The first date, Christmas Eve, has led to disputes about the advisability of celebrating it together due to the health risk that it poses, especially for the elderly. This is the case of two families from Valencia.
In one, the confrontation has reached the point that some brothers will have dinner this Thursday with their parents, with an age close to 80 years, while another has decided to be absent to avoid the risk of contagion, which has led to reproaches among the relatives. Parents wonder what the meaning of life is without meeting on days like today.
On the other side of the coin is a family from a town in the interior, who already had everything organized for this Christmas Eve with their children, their partners and grandchildren. They were going to be 12, double the maximum allowed in the Valencian Community.
They had already decided, they all agreed, until a daughter-in-law has been planted. His reflection on the unnecessaryness of taking such a risk because of a habit, when there is so much time ahead, has finally been imposed and dinner will not be celebrated, without the blood reaching the river.
María Morales, Jaén: “We will have time to celebrate Christmas”
“But are you serious?” Her two strange children asked María Morales. “Boy, did I say so. I have decided. We will have time to celebrate Christmas, “the almost 80-year-old woman snapped.
And so, without hot cloths, it was as this widowed Jaén from just over a year communicated to her family her plan for the night of this December 24: to stay alone in her central apartment having dinner “a little broth and some turkey grilled”. “I am not going to buy caviar or anything,” Morales says ironic.
Although Morales surprised his children when he told them that he preferred to stay alone at these parties – he will extend his decision to the rest of the New Year’s Eve celebrations or Kings -, the truth is that it is an idea that he had been marinating for a long time and that it is not the first time what it takes in this uncertain 2020 that is leaving.
During the first confinement, the woman also opted to stay alone at home, despite the fact that her children wanted her to go with one of them. “When my husband died they offered it to me, but this is forever and I said no. In March, the same. It makes me sad, but I’m not alone because they call me all the time ”.
The Jaén supports her determination in religiosity. After getting up, preparing breakfast and cleaning her apartment, she dedicates herself “to reading Church or day saints books in the sun” or to watching mass on television.
And despite her firmness, she can’t help nostalgia when she remembers Christmas past in her old town, Iznatoraf: “Those were pretty, we all got together.”
But soon Morales is consoled in thinking about the life that he hopes to be able to recover with the vaccine: “When it is my time to put it on, I will put it on. For the sake of others, I don’t doubt it ”.