Sitting in a space between the Spinelli's purple living room and purple dining room, settled into the purple wall-to-wall carpeting, next to the purple sofa, was a purple-flocked Christmas tree strung with purple lights, and adorned with purple glass ornaments and purple garland. Even I found it to be a bit much. And I was only 4 the last time we saw them. Under the tree, Mrs. Spinelli had placed a large and exceptionally ornate creche. It was elegant and beautifully arranged with all the members of the holy family, the magi, the animals, and more. And it had been spray-painted entirely in purple. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I found the purple-faced Baby Jesus especially disturbing.
|BEHIND GLASS IN A HALL UPSTAIRS FROM THE SUPERMARKET MERCADONA.|
Sevilla is filled with more nativity scenes (called belén) than I have ever seen, but I have still not come across a purple one. I've seen dozens, I'm sure, and the level of detail is phenomenal. Since our arrival in July, we had noticed stores around town that specialize in the components, but we could never have anticipated what it would be like at Christmas. Every church has a belén. Many stores, including El Corte Inglés, as well. And private homes proudly display their own — many handmade.
|THE 18TH ANNUAL BELÉN MARKET IN THE PLAZA NEXT TO THE CATHEDRAL.|
|EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO CREATE YOUR OWN BELÉN.|
|FINDING A DREAM HOUSE.|
On our walk to see the lights the other night, we came upon a large market in the streets next to the Cathedral. It is the 18th Annual Belén Market of Sevilla and 15 different companies are represented with 29 booths. The variety, the choices, the craftsmanship... absolutely phenomenal. There were booths specializing only in animals. Booths specializing in the Three Wise Men (none climbing ladders). Booths with only trees of all shapes and sizes. Others specialized in stables and architecture. And still others had lifelike mechanical figures.
|A CHILDREN'S ZOO WITHOUT THE MESS.|
|MORE THAN WERE ON THE ARK.|
Now, as you may already know, I am not religious. As a matter of fact, and I know I've told you this before, organized religion makes me excruciatingly uncomfortable. But, I have been fascinated by the cultural aspects of Catholicism in Spain, and I have found myself interested in their religious traditions, especially since the strong Catholic culture here does not deny me, a gay man, the rights given to all other people living in this country. Jerry and I are a married couple. Unlike in the United States, we are legally recognized as such everywhere in Spain. Unlike in the United States, I and everyone I encounter refer to us as maridos (husbands) and it no longer sounds odd to me when I hear it said. I have never before lived in an environment where I have felt completely safe, comfortable, and — dare I say it — NORMAL. Not even when we lived in San Francisco.
|A LOT MORE EXPENSIVE THAN THE THREE WISE MEN CLIMBING THE LADDER OUTSIDE MY WINDOW.|
Yes, I am always aware of the history of Catholicism in Spain. And I am cognizant of the fact that the Catholic culture in Spain developed over the centuries largely out of repression and brutality. But, at least for the present, it is not acceptable in Spain to publicly demean gay people or to deny gay people equal rights (as it is acceptable, and common, in the United States to do).
|WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE. IN THE WINDOW OF EL CORTE INGLÉS.|
But I digress. I will now step down from my soap box and tell you simply that, because I am treated so well in this culturally Catholic country, I find myself much more open to the beauty of the religious traditions. And the belén are beautiful. Of course, I'm more fascinated by the individual pieces than by the nativity scenes themselves.
|THE DOCTOR WAS NOT IN.|
While Jerry and I were running errands in the neighborhood this afternoon, we passed an elegant house with a doctor's shingle out front. As we walked by, we noticed through the front grillwork an incredible belén filling the entire foyer. A woman appeared to be closing up for the day and saw us through the door. She immediately unlocked the gate and invited us in to see it. I asked permission and then snapped a quick photo with my phone. We were embarrassed and didn't stay long, but she was so gracious that I'm sure we could have spent as much time as we liked. And I could have spent hours. It looked like someone had reproduced the entire town of Bethlehem. Mrs. Spinelli probably wouldn't have liked it. Very little purple.