Tradition Field Note: Besos and Siestas

Besos and Siestas

Have you guys ever wondered how people greet one another in other countries? Do they hug, kiss on the cheek, or shake hands?  What time do people eat? Do they usually eat out at restaurants or at home?  This week, we have a chance to compare the traditions of Spain to some of the traditions we may follow back in the United States.  Do you think our traditions, festivals, or celebrations in the states are similar or quite different from those here in Spain?

Roses were everywhere!

What tradition did I learn about?

There are several traditions in Spain that are different from my daily life back in Chicago.  I am going to be focusing on the differences in how we greet others, the eating schedule, the concept of “siesta” or naptime in Spain, and bullfighting.

1. Kissing & Greeting

From the first day I arrived in Spain, I noticed a distinct difference in how people greeted each other.  When I first met my host family, I said ‘Hola’ and reached out to shake all of their hands.  As if ignoring me, they leaned in and gave me a “beso” on my right cheek and then another on my left cheek.  A beso is a kiss, and it is a common tradition in Spain to greet your friends and family with a beso on the cheek!

This tradition is actually present in cultures and countries all over the world.  In some countries you only kiss one cheek, and in other places you kiss the left cheek first and then the right one. Although cheek kissing is a very common tradition here, there are people who hug and shake hands as well.  What are some common ways that you greet friends or family members?  Have you ever greeted someone with a kiss on the cheek before?

2. Eating Schedule (Daily Life)

I usually run in the morning. While running I noticed that restaurants and cafes usually open at around 7 or 8 AM for the rush of people heading to work and school.  In Chicago, I typically eat a pretty large breakfast of turkey bacon, eggs and hash browns.  Here in Spain, most people only drink coffee and eat a small pastry for breakfast.  What do you usually eat for breakfast?

In Spain people eat lunch at around 1:30 PM. This is their biggest meal of the day.  For dinner here in Spain, people typically eat at around 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM at night.  What time do you usually eat dinner? Do you like to stay up late or get up early? At first it was a little difficult for me to adjust or change my schedule to match the local culture. I was not used to eating a light breakfast and a big lunch, and I was not used to the late dinner time. Now I am on the same schedule as everyone else.  I wonder if I will change my schedule again when I return to Chicago, or if perhaps I have grown to like the Spanish way of life?!

3. Siesta

There are typically two different siestas, or breaks, each day. Siestas are times when shops close and people go home to eat and relax with their families. The first break is from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. All of the stores and business close for this siesta. The other siesta is from about 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. During this break all of the restaurants are closed. Traditionally this was a time for workers in the field to rest and find shelter from the heat.  The workers would tap a nap or rest, and then they would go back and work until very late in the evening when the hot sun had set.

In modern times, the siesta is still a time for rest and a nap.  In Spain, the biggest and most important meal of the day is lunch.  This long break in the day allows people to return home, cook a meal, rest, relax and have great conversations.

3. Bullfighting

During a recent trip to the capital city of Madrid, I learned a lot about the importance of bullfighting in Spain.  Although it is a very competitive sport today, its roots can be traced back hundreds of years to a time when people worshipped animals like bulls for their strength and power in the natural world.  Over the centuries, traditional bullfighting has become an important part of Spanish culture.  Spanish bullfighting is usually described as la fiesta (holiday) or el feriado (festival). Professional toreros (bullfighters) wear traditional costumes of different colors.  Some popular colors include gold, blue, red, silver and red.  The bullfighter uses a cape and moves it in various ways to control the movements of the bull.  Did you guys know that bulls are colorblind?  This is interesting fact, because the bulls cannot recognize the color of the cape.  The bulls follow the cape because of its movement, not its color! I learned that bullfighting is considered to be one of the most dangerous events in the world!

The ultimate goal of a bullfight is to the kill the bull. Choosing the bull and preparing the bull for the fight is a very intense process, for the bull and for the bullfighter. The steps that are taken are part of the culture of bullfighting and are very traditional, meaning they have been done the same way for many years. There are certain preparations, clothes, routines and even dances that have to happen for a bullfight to be considered successful. Many people in Spain and around the world think that some of the preparations are not fair to the bulls. They want to end the tradition of bullfighting. It is a difficult decision for a culture to end a tradition even when the tradition is known to be harmful.

After touring Plaza de Toros or the Plaza of the Bulls in Madrid, my tour guide told that the bull’s meat is sold after a bullfight.  After a bullfight you can go to some markets, purchase the meat and enjoy a bull meat dinner.  Have you ever heard or learned about bullfights before?  Could you imagine eating bull meat?  I did not have time to go to bullfighting fiesta in Madrid.  Hopefully I will be able to go to a bullfight when I visit the South of Spain in a couple of weeks.

Why does the community have this tradition? Is this tradition connected to this environment? How?

Traditions are very important to any cultural group or country.  Traditions help provide a sense of comfort, and they also bring people together.  This is very important to how people interact with each other.  Traditions help to give as a sense of belonging, and they let us know that we belong to something special.

What are some traditions that you can think of in the United States? Are you having a hard time thinking of some traditions?  A tradition could be anything that you have done or shared with someone else whether it is a family, friend or even someone you’ve just met.   A tradition could be greeting other with a hug, barbecuing for the Fourth of July, or going ice-skating during the winter season.

Everything that people do is somehow connected to their environment, whether they are trying to adapt to their environment, change their environment or preserve their environment. For example, the tradition of bullfighting came from more ancient worshipping of animals, when the people lived in an agrarian, or farming community, many centuries ago. At that time, humans recognized the power of nature and its delicate balance of strength and wisdom. The dance that the bullfighters do with the bull is supposed to be a reminder to the people of the importance of having a balance between all things, as they are found in nature.

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