Spaniards bewildered and bemused by capital's bizarre Christmas lights

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Post-modern Christmas lights in the form of words dangling in the sky are provoking a considerable rumpus in Madrid, confusing, delighting and annoying locals who stop in their tracks to try to make them out.

Post-modern Christmas lights in the form of words dangling in the sky are provoking a considerable rumpus in Madrid, confusing, delighting and annoying locals who stop in their tracks to try to make them out.

Strung along the Recoletos boulevard that bisects the Spanish capital from north to south are groups of seemingly random illuminated words. Patatas, Conejo, Alubias - Potatoes, Rabbit, Beans - they read. Memories, Cinnamon, Silk ... Tenderness, Valve ... People crane perilously from traffic jams to intone the words with wonder and bafflement.

"I don't know what to make of it," said one lady laden with Christmas shopping. "It's different anyway." But there are complaints, too, among those attempting to decipher Seed, Croquette, Hangover, Suitcase ...

"There's every word here except anything to do with Christmas," grumbled another passerby, nostalgic for festooned bells and trumpet-blowing cherubs.

You will look in vain among the 200 words chosen by the Austrian designer Eva Lootz for anything like Shepherd, Manger, Wise Men or Star in the East. Ms Lootz, a Viennese who settled in Madrid as a teenager 40 years ago, says: "These are free words, that interrelate among themselves. They have no particular message, except that not everyone shares a concept of Christmas that is cloying and hypocritical."

But words like Pride, Violet, Marble, Perpetual have aroused criticism from those demanding something more Christmassy. Church leaders condemn the wordy installation as an attempt to secularise the festival.

Turn from Recoletos into the other main thoroughfare of Alcala, however, and you are on safer ground. Here, amid the fountains, marble statues and grand buildings are strung the word Peace in 62 languages.

But the peace lights - designed by Manuel Estrada - have aroused criticism too, this time from progressives. "It's all very well writing peace all down the street, but when we demonstrated for peace down this very street, our placards bearing the word were trodden underfoot. These are hypocritical lights," wrote Ruth Toledano in El Pais.

Traditionalists, at least, may find comfort in a huge Christmas tree decked with presents and scarlet bows in the city's central Puerta del Sol, and an entire walkway devoted to nativity cribs.

Comments