Any excuses for the snoring father with his feet up?

The Virgin of the Garage, La Gomera. Photo: Stephanie Enright

First, the perennial question arises of who or what is responsible for the condition of the venerable paterfamilias snoring, mouth agape, in his armchair post Christmas dinner, while his wife and children make like mice so as not to disturb his “well-deserved” rest.

The unfortunate man has, after all, been labouring, physically or figuratively, all year to provide the wherewithal for the banquet (as has, most likely, his doting wife — plus labouring since daybreak to cook it —but it is Himself who is under discussion).

Previously, I thought his catatonia and the stentorian Christmas Day snores to be attributable to the port or the pudding. Now, I learn that the turkey is to blame. The bird is the culprit.

The man is, in fact, in a tryptophan coma because his late feathered friend was full of tryptophan, a serious, seratonin-related sedative. Only Arctic ringed seals contain more trypto per miligram. than your shed-reared or farmyard turkey.

Thus, “Eskimos” may find themselves trypt-oing on seal liver after dinner. It must be a great comfort for the entire family, clustered in an igloo with only a seal oil lamp for light, when papa comes home with the tryptophan.

Regarding the snoring Irish father, vegetarians argue that it’s the vast intake of Christmas-fare carbohydrates, including the roast spuds, etcetera, that deals the knockout blow. They compare the snoring paterfamilias to a boa constrictor that has swallowed a deer.

PC readers not sedated by turkey overdose may be outraged at my use of “Eskimo”. So tell me: Is it Inuit? Are Eskimos simply a tribe of the Inuit people? In my lifetime, first they were Eskimos or Esquimaux, then Inuit, then Eskimo again. This, like other turn-abouts in nomenclature, would make your head spin.

Like medicines. One day, everybody should take tiny aspirin. Next day, don’t go near them, for god’s sake! Or Flora, the butter substitute: Now embrace it, now, don’t. Whatever about the properties of turkeys or potatoes, this sort of thing would certainly put one to sleep.

Meanwhile, one of our sons, returned from the sun to spend this soggy Christmas with us, brings us accounts of this year’s quinquennial progress of the Virgin, Nuestra Senora de los Reyes, as she is carried through the hamlets of the spectacular Valle Gran Rey in La Gomera, our Canary Islands part-time home since 1981. The story brings back memories.

There is no Christmas in La Gomera until January 6, when the Three Kings come bringing gifts to her newborn son, the Christ child, in her home, the Hermita de Los Reyes, the small, white Church of the Kings perched on a green terrace across the deep valley from “our village”.

Our youngest son and his English bride were married in the hermita two spring times ago.

Every five years, on December 8, the “Virgen” is taken from the cool silence of the hermita on a tour of the communities of the valley, carried on a palanquin on the shoulders of doughty farmers up the rocky, precipitous pathways traditionally used to heft their bananas to market.

The Virgen’s cortege, accompanied by the beating of tambors (like bodhráns), clacking of large chácaras castanets, and toodling of flutes, moves on each evening, joined by the people of the next hamlet coming to welcome her.

Sometimes, there is a small church, a hermita, where she will spend the night; if not, a garage, swept and whitewashed, the front thrown open, the interior bedecked with flowers, has been prepared for her stay.

The valley priest, a convivial young man, bestows her divine blessings on the place and its people, and a small local fiesta starts up, with gratuitous cheeses, cakes, fruits and country wine. Music and dancing goes on until the early hours.

Local women, usually elderly, spend all night around the Señora to guard her. All next day, she sits on her palanquin throne in church or garage. As the sun begins to lower, she is raised again, and carried on.

On December 6, having been carried, station by station, up to Chipude, a village 900m above the valley floor and, station by station, down to the sea and the villages along the shore — where fiestas with ‘orquestras’ and crowds of locals and visitors will greet her — she is carried back to her church on its quiet terrace beneath tall palmeras.

There, after the Three Kings have brought their gifts, she will rest for another five years.


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