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Olentzero
Olentzero
(Basque pronunciation: [olents̻eɾo], sometimes Olentzaro or Olantzaro) is a character in Basque Christmas
Christmas
tradition. According to Basque traditions Olentzero
Olentzero
comes to town late at night on the 24th of December to drop off presents for children. In some places he arrives later, for example in Ochagavía – Otsagabia on the 27th and in Ermua
Ermua
on the 31st.

Contents

1 The name 2 The legend 3 Modern customs and derivation 4 Olentzero
Olentzero
songs

4.1 Olentzero 4.2 Olentzero
Olentzero
buru handia

5 Notes 6 References 7 External links

The name[edit] The name Olentzero
Olentzero
appears in a number of variations: Onenzaro, Onentzaro, Olentzaro, Ononzaro, Orentzago and others. The earliest records give the name as Onentzaro and the name is most likely composed of two elements, on "good" plus a genitive plural ending and the suffix -zaro which in Basque denotes a season (compare words like haurtzaro "childhood"), so "time of the good ones" literally. This suggests a derivation similar to the Spanish nochebuena, but the origin of Onentzaro, corresponding to the old feast of the winter solstice, is older than that of Christmas
Christmas
(which historically replaced the festival of Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus
in 380 under Theodosius I
Theodosius I
in the Roman Empire). Other theories of derivation exist but are not generally accepted:[1]

from a metathesis of Noël, theory of S. Altube from a fusion of O Nazarene from Christian liturgy, theory of J. Gorostiaga from oles-aro "alms season", a phonologically impossible derivation by Julio Caro Baroja

In parts of Navarre
Navarre
this holiday is called xubilaro or subilaro from subil, the word for a Yule log
Yule log
plus the suffix -zaro. In parts of Lower Navarre
Navarre
the word suklaro is used, a contraction of sekularo. Sekularo has no clear etymology but is likely to be related to Latin saecularis.[2] The legend[edit]

A figure of Olentzero
Olentzero
being carried through the streets of Barakaldo

There are many variations to the Olentzero
Olentzero
traditions and stories connected to him, sometimes varying from village to village. The first written account of Olentzero
Olentzero
is from Lope de Isasti in the 17th century: A la noche de Navidad (llamamos) onenzaro, la sazón de los buenos ("To Christmas
Christmas
eve (we call) onenzaro, the season of the good ones". One common version has Olentzero
Olentzero
being one of the jentillak, a mythological race of Basque giants living in the Pyrenees. Legend has it that they observed a glowing cloud in the sky one day. None of them could look at this bright cloud except for a very old, nearly blind man. When asked to examine it, he confirmed their fears and told them that it was a sign that Jesus
Jesus
would be born soon. According to some stories, the old man asked the giants to throw him off a cliff to avoid having to live through Christianisation. Having obliged him, the giants tripped on the way down and died themselves except Olentzero. Other versions have the jentillak simply leaving, with only Olentzero remaining behind to embrace Christianity.[3] Parts of Olentzero
Olentzero
legend are reminiscent of a prehistoric cult rituals surrounding the winter solstice, such as the involvement of ritual "last meals" and sacrifices of rebirth. Other versions of the Olentzeroren kondaira, or "history of Olentzero", tell that as a new born he was abandoned in the woods and was found by a fairy who gave him the name Olentzero, bestowed gifts of strength and kindness on him and handed him to an older childless couple living alone in the woods. He turned into a strong man and charcoal burner who was also good with his hands, carving wooden toys that he would carry in a big charcoal bag to give to the children of the village. It is said that he died one day saving children from a burning house and that when he died, the fairy who had found him granted him eternal life to continue to bring joy to children and people. Other variations of the legend, customs and the character include:

in Areso children would be told to come home early. An adult would then dress up as Olentzero
Olentzero
and scare the children still out on the streets with a sickle. in Uharte-Arakil he was traditionally suspended from a rope from a window, dressed in a straw mantle, in Lekunberri the effigy was attached to the chimney. in Berastegi if the children did not want to go to bed, a sickle would be thrown down the chimney and the children told that Olentzero
Olentzero
would come to cut their throats if they didn't go to bed. in Dima a straw puppet dressed as Olentzero
Olentzero
with a sickle would be hung from the church tower after the midnight mass on Christmas
Christmas
Eve and if children had been behaving badly, people would say Onontzaro begi-gorri txaminira da etorri, austen baldin badegu barua, orrek lepoa kendu guri " Olentzero
Olentzero
with the red eyes has come to the chimney, if we break the fast, he will cut our throats" - referring to the traditional fast in the week before Christmas. in Larraun he was called Ononzaro and said to have three eyes and usually depicted as a drunkard dressed like a scarecrow. People would ask Ononzaro begi-gorri, non arrapatu duk arrai ori? ( Olentzero
Olentzero
of the red eyes, where did you catch that fish (i.e. inebriation)?) and the answer would be Bart arratseko amaiketan Zurriolako arroketan (last night at eleven in the rocks of Zurriola).

Modern customs and derivation[edit]

Olentzero
Olentzero
alongside other Christmas
Christmas
symbols at the Bilbao-Loiu airport

Around 1952, after the darkest years of the Franco dictatorship, a group called Irrintzi Elkartea from Zarautz
Zarautz
began to revive the Olentzero
Olentzero
traditions.[4] Some of the more gruesome elements were removed to make Olentzero
Olentzero
more suitable for young children and to remove elements which were deemed too pagan. From 1956 onwards, the revived Olentzero
Olentzero
traditions began to spread outside those parts of Gipuzkoa
Gipuzkoa
where the traditions hailed from. During the 1970s he began to take on further new attributes, such as the bringer of gifts in attempts to find an alternative to the Spanish tradition of the Magi and the French Père Noël, summed up in the slogan Erregeak, españolak "the Three Wise Men are Spanish". Today Olentzero
Olentzero
is celebrated all over the Basque Country and coexists with the Magi, Père Noël
Père Noël
and Father Christmas, some families choosing to celebrate one or more at the same time. In the modern version, Olentzero
Olentzero
is depicted as a lovable character, widely attributed to being overweight, having a huge appetite and thirst. He is depicted as a Basque peasant wearing a Basque beret, a farmer's attire with traditional abarketa shoes and smoking a pipe. Whether he has a beard or not is not yet an established tradition. Sometimes his face is stained with charcoal, as a sign of his trade as a charcoal-burner. On Christmas
Christmas
Eve, groups of people or children carry effigies of Olentzero
Olentzero
around on a chair through the streets, singing Olentzero
Olentzero
carols and collecting food or sweets (not unlike the American trick or treat) and the traditions surrounding the holiday of Santa Ageda in the Basque Country where oles egitea "asking for alms" is practised. At the end, it is customary in some places to burn the Olentzero, for example in Lesaka. Variation is still common, both regionally and culturally depending on whether the pagan or Christian aspects of Olentzaro are being emphasised. Near the sea, he is usually takes on more marine attributes, inland he remains thoroughly rural in nature. Olentzero
Olentzero
songs[edit] Similar to European Christmas
Christmas
carols, there are Olentzero
Olentzero
kantak. Two very common ones are: Olentzero[edit]

Olentzero
Olentzero
joan zaigu mendira lanera, intentzioarekin ikatz egitera. Aditu duenean Jesus
Jesus
jaio dela lasterka etorri da berri ematera.

Horra horra gure Olentzero pipa hortzetan dula eserita dago. Kapoiak ere ba'itu arraultzatxoekin bihar meriendatzeko botila ardoakin.

Olentzero
Olentzero
gurea ezin dugu ase osorik jan dizkigu hamar txerri gazte. Saiheski ta solomo horrenbeste heste Jesus
Jesus
jaio delako erruki zaitezte.

Olentzerok dakarzki atsegin ta poza jakin baitu mendian Jesusen jaiotza. Egun argi honetan alaitu bihotza kanpo eta barruan kendu azkar hotza.

Olentzero
Olentzero
has gone to the mountains to work with the intention of making charcoal. When he heard that Jesus
Jesus
has been born he came running to bring news

There is, there is our Olentzero with the pipe between his teeth he sits. He also has capons with little eggs, to celebrate tomorrow with a bottle of wine.

Our Olentzero we can't sate him he has eaten whole ten piglets. Ribs and pork loin so many intestines because Jesus
Jesus
is born have mercy.

Olentzero
Olentzero
brings happiness and joy because he has heard on the mountain of Jesus' birth. On this bright day heart, rejoice outside and inside quickly loose the chill.

Olentzero
Olentzero
buru handia[edit] The title translates as " Olentzero
Olentzero
big head". An arroba is an old measure equivalent to just over 11 kg.

Olentzero
Olentzero
buru handia entendimentuz jantzia bart arratsean edan omen du hamar arroako zahagia. Ai urde tripahandia! Tralaralala, tralaralala. Ai urde tripahandia! Tralaralala, tralaralala.

Olentzero
Olentzero
big head robed in understanding is said to have drunk last night a wineskin of ten arrobas Oh big-bellied pig! Tralaralala, tralaralala. Oh big-bellied pig! Tralaralala, tralaralala.

Notes[edit]

^ Agud, M. Diccionario Etimológico Vasco VII, Donostia 1995 ^ Azkue, RM 1905 Diccionario Vasco Español Frances repr. Bilbao 1984 ^ http://gaztea.euskonews.com/0421zbk/gaia42108.html Euskonews on Olentzero ^ http://www.euskonews.com/0421zbk/gaia42101eu.html Euskonews on Basque Christmas
Christmas
traditions

References[edit]

Ansorena, J. Euskal kantak, Donostia 1993 Azkue, RM 1934 Euskaleŕiaren Yakintza, repr. Bilbao 1989 Barandiaran, J Dictionnaire Illustré de Mythologie Basque, Donostia 1994 Etxegoien, J. Orhipean, Xamar 1996 Article in the Correo Digital

External links[edit]

Basque portal

Media related to Olentzero
Olentzero
at Wikimedia Commons Olentzero.net, Olentzero's official website of Pamplona-Iruña, Lesaka, Baiona-Bayonne, among many other locations.

v t e

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