It’s early January, and in Spain the Christmas shopping season is still in full swing. Aarrgghh! It’s all because of the age-old tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts on the 6th of January (for all you young children reading this: Epiphany is the day when gifts are handed out by three wise men riding camels, alright?). Considering that Barcelona turned its Xmas lights on in November of last year, that means we’ve been subjected to no less than a month and a half of advertising campaigns urging us to buy everything from cava to lottery tickets to entire legs of cured ham. With the more recent importation of Santa Claus (‘Papá Noel’) into Spain’s festive season, there is never any shortage, anywhere you go, of dressed-up bearded men ready to scare any toddlers.
Needless to say, as a bearded ‘lumbersexual‘, my preference is to escape to the mountains during these months; the only place where commercialism hasn’t yet made significant inroads. But alas, I must stay home during these months grading student work and evaluating research grant applications. But even the sanctity of my own home is not immune from the onslaught: downstairs from my apartment, there’s a space in which a horrible marching band practices year-round. The space is acoustically uninsulated, of course, which would normally make it illegal as a venue for live music, but since this marching band is a centuries-old neighborhood tradition (or so it is said), all laws are waived. Seems Barcelona’s noise bylaw is only applicable in the case of small, indie bars and cafés where singer-songwriters strum on an acoustic guitar. Anyway, on special days, like Christmas Eve, New Year’s, Epiphany, and just about every Saint Day in the Catholic calendar, this marching band, 90% of which is a drum section (!), march out of their space into the two-meter wide streets lined with six-story tall walls of reverb-maximizing masonry to bombard us with even more noise.
Isn’t tradition wonderful?
Happy new year, everyone.