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Our Christmas celebrations have got everything. The intricate compositions of the cribs. The secretive, nocturnal merriment of the carols. The awed excitement of the children during the Cavalcade of the Kings (January 6th). Everything except the overcast skies and icy wind which paralyse smiles and stun the streets.

Christmas on La Palma is the time of cribs, poinsettia plants, and carol groups called Divinos, who perform during the small hours. From these so universal and recognisable celebrations, we will restrict ourselves to mentioning some of the Christmas events most closely connected with island tradition. On Christmas Eve, in the church of Saint Andrew in the village of the same name (San Andrés y Sauces), an enormous blue cloth unfolded in the arch of the presbytery welcomes believers. Behind it, a Baroque altar piece is hidden, and in front of that, a costumbrista-style crib (depicting local everyday scenes), dating, apparently, from the late 19th century. Every year, before the Midnight Mass, and to the sound of castanettes, drum, flute and rasqueta (a wooden instrument with teeth which is rubbed with a cane), the mystery is unveiled. Wooden figures wearing their traditional dress appear, representing shepherds, woodsmen, weavers, peasants, water-bearers, coopers, spinners and the remaining occupations connected with the island’s rural areas. From among the mountains in the landscape, six girls dressed as angels emerge, singing and inviting the shepherds to adore the Child Jesus. Later, a boy joins them representing an Archangel, as well as the shepherds themselves, who move towards the crib from an improvised hut erected in the church choir. This theatrical nativity scene is perhaps the most striking of all those appearing on these dates in many other corners of the island. The one organized by the Town Hall of Los Llanos de Aridane, in the covered passage opposite the central Plaza de España, is, for example, one of the best known. Two weeks later, on the magical night of January 5th, the little streets of Santo Domingo (Villa de Garafía) fill with small children, their hearts bursting with excitement and expectation. Accompanied by richly-dressed pages, the three Wise Men (Reyes Magos) appear on one of the main thoroughfares, talking amongst themselves. They then meet Herod in his palace, who orders them to return with news of the Son of God. The delegation from the Orient then heads for the church, where an angel inviting them to adore the child Jesus appears, to whom they present their offerings. This particular event, known as the Auto de Reyes Magos, is one of the oldest theatrical pieces still performed on the island.



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