Archive for December 18, 2007

One of the little things about Christmas on Tenerife that awakens a childlike sense of wonder in me is the wonderfully elaborate beléns, or nativity scenes, that spring up in town halls, plazas and shop windows during December.

These scenes, which represent life in a Middle Eastern village during biblical times, range from intricately detailed miniatures to life-size depictions such as the one in front of La Orotava’s town hall. The best beléns also have working parts; donkeys draw water from wells, men scramble up and down palm trees, blacksmiths forge horses’ hooves and so on.

I can spend ages admiring the craftwork that has gone into bringing these scenes to life. Peering through little windows like a modern day Gulliver, I’ll see a woman making bread, or a pantry filled with strings of chorizos and full Serrano hams.

part of a nativity scene in La OrotavaHowever, every time I happen across a new belén, my first objective is to find one particularly figure. He’s the guy who’s been caught short outdoors and obviously has no option but to relieve himself; usually behind a bush or by the river. I kid you not; he’s always there; I don’t know why; possibly just for mischief; an irreverent touch in a reverent landscape. You can even buy figures of him in different poses in the local supermarket (some of which are distastefully detailed) to add to your own nativity scene.

In the belén in La Villa shopping centre in La Orotava they at least had the decency to provide him with a wooden outside lavatory, but then undid this discreet touch (or made it even more amusing, depending on your tastes) by having the toilet door swing open at regular intervals, exposing him mid-movement much to the delight of young and, let’s be honest here, some not so young onlookers. I love it.

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