Christmas in the Soller Valley
By Shirley Roberts
The Christmas celebrations in this place are very local and Spanish with religious and family traditions attached to each of the celebration dates.
Christmas Eve is very important and is when families gather for a celebration meal and a group visit to Christmas Mass at whichever church they live near to. The churches of the Valley share the same priests who do many services on Christmas Eve. This necessitates each Church having a different time for their Mass. The churches of L’horta, Port of Soller, The Sacred Heart Convent, Sa Capelletta, Fornalutx, Biniaraix, Deia and Valldemossa are all venues for Mass.
The Sant Bartholomew Church in the heart of Soller is the climax of the evening with its service which starts at 11pm and goes on until it ushers in Christmas Day. Many people will attend their own local church and then gather in Soller at Sant Bartholomew to join with the wider community and all their local friends.
The Tram is free on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve and runs all night to get people from Soller to the Port and back. The Town Hall fund this for all as their gift to the people.
The dish of Christmas Eve tables is often fish with many Christmas recipes being used which have been in the families for generations.
Ensaimada and Hot Chocolate is the celebration dish of the area and comes out for every occasion. At Christmas the chocolate is often infused with brandy and this is a tradition that young and old enjoy. Most bars and restaurants in the heart of Soller are closed at midnight but the two or three that remain open to serve the church goers do a roaring trade in this time honoured way.
Christmas Day services usher in Christmas Day here as they do all over the world. Families have their Christmas walks and gatherings and Papa Noel or Father Christmas will have been to visit the houses and leave a little gift. Local children have little expectation of Papa Noel because they know that on the 5th January The Three Kings will visit and bring many gifts and all the ‘must have’ presents of this years Christmas.
Christmas Day food can be any of the delights of this area. Turkey is eaten by some English speaking Sollerics but just as common for all is Suckling Pig, Roast Beef or Lamb. There are many sweet traditions that fill the bakers at this time of year and it is worth asking in them what their specialities are. Each local Soller Bakery has unique sweet dishes that are worth tasting – particularly the ones full of local almonds.
After a two-day celebration it is business as usual and most people go back to work and life continues normally until New Years Eve on 31st December. All the City, Town and Village squares of the Soller Valley will have a party on New Years Eve. The tradition is that even if you have been to a restaurant to eat you will get to your local square with 12 grapes and a glass of champagne. There as the clock strikes, tradition says that you must eat one grape for each chime to bring you the best luck for next year. The centres come alive with music and dancing and if the council can afford it some fireworks.
A day of recovery after that and then it is on to the biggest night of the year for local children – 5th January.
The Three Kings arrive by boat to the Port of Soller and are met by their Pages who deliver sweets to the waiting crowds of children. They sit on their thrones at the quayside and children have a chat with them and tell them what they would like as a gift. This takes some considerable time! The Kings, Pages, and crowd then process to the Church in the Port of Soller where the Kings are welcomed. The Kings are then taken by a specially decorated Tram up to the City of Soller where they get on their horses and lead the parade around the square. They are joined by floats from all the local schools with hundreds of excited children taking part and enjoying this special night of the year. Soller square is packed with everyone coming to view the parade and be part of this most important date.
The square empties with children being taken home to put the shoe on the door step. They are expecting a visit there from the King on his camel and they have to leave a little something for the camel to eat and drink. This date is the meaning of Christmas for our local friends and the one they all work towards.
6th January is ‘Christmas Day’ here in the Soller Valley with excited children waking up to find their presents and playing all day. Family gatherings are very important and the traditional mountain and seaside family walks.
Three special dates packed into a two-week period is what this season brings in our world. The whole season is infused with religious observance, family tradition and history. All around us new people are bringing their own traditions as the Soller melting pot contains many nationalities. The fundamentals stay the same in spite of that and all observances are respected. But the heart of a Soller Christmas has remained unchanged for generations and is a good place to be.