This week, I discovered a new local tradition – and one I turned out to really like. But first, let me tell you a (very short) story.
Santa Agueda de Catania (Saint Agatha of Sicily) was a woman born from a rich Catholic family. She lived in a time of Christian persecution by the Roman emperor Decius. She was taken prisoner and tortured for her faith; her breasts were cut off and in the end (after many humiliations and epic conversations with her torturers, please google it if you’d like all of the details) she died and was declared a martyr.
Now here in Spain, Santa Agueda is a very important saint. She is the patron of women and of breast cancer patients, and every year around her birthday (February 5th) she is remembered and her martyrdom is celebrated as “women’s day”. A few weeks ago, some friends from Arens convinced me to come and join them for Santa Agueda in their village…
And that’s how I found myself on a Saturday morning in the village square of Arens, surrounded by only women. There were delicious cakes (made by the wonderful Otti, wife of the shopkeeper Jose Ramon whom I blogged about a few months ago) and mistela (a kind of sweet fortified wine) to warm up with. Meanwhile, the organising committee declared the day of Santa Agueda open from the balcony of the ayuntamiento. From there, there was a procession to the village church; I had only seen it from the outside before (it’s beautiful from the outside, and there is a fantastic view of the river and surroundings from the church square) – it turned out it’s one of those things that’s bigger on the inside, and just as simple, elegant and beautiful as the outside.
After mass, we all got a “boob cake” (mamelletes). Delicious, funny and very filling 🙂
12 o’clock, time to dance the jota (the local traditional dance) on the village square. I’ll put a video on our Facebook page (it’s got the music as well). But also time to all hurry to the warmth of the Sociedad (the village bar / cultural center) and get some tapas and Vermuth (again, a kind of fortified wine). Upstairs, there was a photography exposition of views of the Matarranya; we all knew we are living in a breathtakingly beautiful region, but the pictures made it all the more clear. It was quite cold in the exposition room though, which made us need some more drinks to warm up.
So after all this eating, drinking and dancing, you’d think that was it for the day – on the contrary, the fun was just beginning. The procession carried on to the restaurant of Laure and Maria Jose, who prepared us a delicious 4 course meal; between courses, our lottery tickets provided us with lots of merriment and small gifts (some silly, some handy, some both). I got a very handsome wig (just what I needed for Carnaval / Mardi Gras in 2 weeks!) and 2 very small dustpans. Other people got towels, home decorations, handbags, more cleaning accessories and I’m not mentioning the “ladies only” stuff.
Around desert, we were joined by “La Tuna Folk“, 5 young guys from Tortosa playing traditional Spanish songs. And “happy birthday” to Helen. The alcaldesa and organising committee all got personal (funny & naughty) poems recited to them – sadly most of those were in Catalan, which will one day be my 6th language. Maybe. Not now anyway. Despite their (apparent) young age the band was very entertaining and funny, and got almost everyone to dance the conga. Maybe the wine with the food, the cava for the toast and the whisky in the coffee had something to do with that as well.
At our leaving the restaurant, we were provided with a small flowerpot, and a paper flower to dance with; we proceeded to the Sociedad again, where a live band was starting to play in the cinema. By then, the men were finally allowed to join us – if there was to be more dancing, at least we would have men to dance with now! Some time in the evening, we all got to light the candles in the paper flowers; it was a beautiful sight! Another raffle (in which a friend won a fancy dinner for 2!) and a bingo closed off the night – although we stayed until closing, having a wonderful time.
Santa Agueda is definitely one of the most special festivals of the year – a day to celebrate all women of all ages.