Saturday, 9th March, our village held its annual “Entroido” – carnival parade. This signaled the start of Lent. Ferreira de Panton was the last village in this area to hold its parade, Ash Wednesday having fallen on the 6th, so this was a final filing before 40 days of abstemiousness.
We were not prepared for the vigour and enthusiasm with which this small community let its collective hair down! Families who live year-round in nearby cities such as Lugo, Ourense, Pontevedra and Vigo came home for the weekend. Every café was full.
Fancy-dress costumes were splendid. Everyone put on their motley, and had a good drink! That a village of 800 people can produce such an extraordinary event is testimony to how the Spanish prioritise public life; being with friends and family and having a good time is all-important. Whether they are celebrating local produce at the autumnal bacon and chestnut festival, or a religious/cultural tradition, they throw everything into it.
We realized how sterile and homogenized our Australian “fiestas” have become in contrast to these rough and ready Spanish events: people wandered around with drinks in their hands – yes, beers and wine! Kids ran around unchecked, receiving pats and sweets from strangers, and one older gentleman, dressed as a rooster, took his annual opportunity to get fresh with the ladies! One truly international custom was evident – an obligatory gang of beefy, blokes in mini-dresses was charged with ensuring that at least one café ran out of beer.
Adults were not corralled into roped-off areas to smoke or drink. Men stood gallantly aside to allow women use their toilets. In the cafes, little kids sat on bar-stools next to elderly people, not in a “children’s section” with a minder, and I saw at least one toddler sharing its ice-cream with a dog.
The robustness and togetherness of life in a Spanish village is still very new to us. Seeing our bank manager wander down the main street, drinking a beer, dressed as a vegetable, gave us a bit of a start! Being greeted like long-lost friends, by villagers we meet every day, gave us a sense of belonging.
Next year, these “dos damas Australianas” (as we are known) intend to make a small float, and participate in the parade, to advertise our business. We already have at least four volunteers!