Christmas festivities started early with the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaasavond on the 5th December. There is a good sized group of Dutch winterers in the marina and they organised a night of dressing up in orange, eating traditional Dutch food and joining in a conga type dance in the cosy space of the Stella Marina bar. It was a lot of fun and it turned out I own a lot of orange clothes.
The tradition is that Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) travels from Spain to Holland to reward good children or punish the naughty ones. For the bad there is the risk of being put in a sack and being taken to Spain for a year which sounds more like a reward than punishment. Sinterklaas has a bunch of helpers called Zwarte Piet’s (Black Pete) who hand out the sweets and treats.
On Sinterklaasavond the children leave out shoes with carrots for his horse and a poem or picture for Sinterklaas with the hope that in the morning they will find presents in their shoes. We all bought a small gift, took our shoes along to the party and crossed our fingers for a nice surprise.
Colin took his falling apart boat shoes in the hope that Zwarte Piet would take pity on him. It seemed to work as we received a very nice gift – a Christmas welcome mat and some fishing lures.
Open Mike Night
Next up in the schedule of fun was open mike night organised by Colin. Rather than having a single band which would have limits as to how many could play in it, the open mike night allowed musicians with differing musical tastes and instruments to get up in front of the crowd and play a couple of songs.
My kiwi green soprano ukulele was released from it’s case after years of not seeing the light when I joined Maggie to form the ‘Ukulele Girls’ and learn Johnny Cash’s Jackson. After suffering for our art with sore fingers as we got used to new chords and strum patterns we had a successful night and have moved on to learning more new songs.
It was standing room only in the Stella bar and lots of variety in the songs played. For the finale a supergroup formed with all musicians joining in to round off a very successful night.
Festa de Santa Lucia
We were invited to join a trip to Syracuse to see the procession for Festival of Santa Lucia on December 13th. We first encountered St. Lucia via the Caravaggio painting which we visited when we were anchored in the bay in September. We were also spooked by her symbolic eye devotional objects in the room dedicated to her in the duomo.
Mingling in front of the duomo waiting for Santa Lucia to appear we checked out the crowd. There were people barefoot and dressed in green and many held long candles with an image of the saint attached. The official attendants wore jaunty green hats. Finally mass was over and the statue appeared from the duomo doors to calls of ‘Santa Lucia!’.
After a blessing from a religious official (who was a vision in head to toe bright pink) up on a balcony the statue then set off on an extremely slow procession through the square, down to the waterfront, out across the bridge to Syracuse to rest in a church there.
The statue is made of 90kg of silver, so it was no wonder progress was slow as it was carried by the green hatted men. It must have taken several hours for the short journey. As darkness fell candles were lit by the processioners as they walked along in front of the statue. Prayers were relayed by loudspeaker to which the crowds regularly responded with more calls of ‘Santa Lucia’.
As well as seeing the procession I finally began to feel festive as the towns of Syracuse and Ortygia were decorated in their Christmas lights.
A few days later the party theme continued with Colin’s birthday which was a lovely sunny day so we had a pontoon party to celebrate.
A sunny walk near Ragusa
A walk in glorious sunshine from Ragusa up the Cava Della Misericordia gave us some pre-Christmas calorie credits. The streams were still crossable and it warm enough for t-shirts.
A map of the routes around the gorge led us to think there would be an alternative route from the top of the gorge back to Ragusa. We hopped over a wall, through a field that brought us to the head of a narrow chasm where the path should run. All we could see was scrubby bushes and plenty of trees to get tangled in. Making our own route down the field we hoped a path would come into view but all that happened was the trees got closer and looked even more tangled so we gave up and returned the way we had come. Having tried and failed now to find two routes displayed on the map it seems the map may be very out of date!
The Christmas celebrations kicked off on Christmas Eve with a canape and fizz party on Wandering Dragon. For Christmas Day we decided on the full blown turkey dinner on Emerald; the local butcher provided us with a 6kg bird which just about fit in our Force 10 oven. We left it slowly roasting whilst we took a stroll into town which was busy with people promenading in the warm sunshine. It was so warm I wore just a sun top and Colin wore shorts. The locals were as usual bundled up in their thick winter coats, boots and hats and looked at us as if we were very odd despite it being 22°C. Maybe it was our Christmas hats rather than our summer clothing! The square was decorated with a tree, an igloo and a pile of car tyres painted white with red ribbons. Nice to see a bit of recycling going on!
The following week was full of festive fun rounding off with the New Year’s Eve party. The warm sunny weather had done a runner leaving unseasonable cold in it’s place. The evening kicked off with lashings of fizz then with the threat of snow in the early hours we bundled up in thick coats, hats and gloves to see in midnight in the Stella Bar. David and Samantha’s kareoke saw us having fun into the wee hours and as it all wound up the snow arrived, sadly It was wet and slushy snow and not good enough for snowball fights.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!