This extract is taken from Andorra Revealed, a book jam-packed with details about the country past and present. Written by Judith Wood, Ian Woolward and myself and costing 10€ from my garage, it is also available from La Puça bookshop in Andorra la Vella and online from Amazon.co.uk – paperback ￡8.99, Kindle ￡4.99.
24th December, Christmas Eve.
Father Christmas, a fairly new addition to the festive season, is welcomed into each parish in the early evening accompanied by assorted helpers: elves, gnomes etc. He usually arrives in the town’s main square and mounts onto a stage covered by a marquee. There he sits down to receive the children’s letters of good wishes and requests. (He does not hand out presents.)
The Missa del Gall or Cockerel Mass sees Andorra’s Catholic churches packed to standing room only. (Usually held at midnight, the Cockerel Mass recalls the fable that a cockerel was the first to announce the birth of Jesus. Traditionally the Song of the Cockerel opened the service.) A little before midnight the bells ring out and everyone heads for church. But not before leaving a good fire in the hearth and a stool beside it in case the Mother of God wants to come in to warm her hands. After the Mass most parishes offer mulled wine, hot chocolate and cake to warm the people on their way home.