sun exercises a miraculous influence during the winter solstice right
up to Christmas (‘Eguberri’
– the Basque word for Christmas). Christmas Eve in
particular is shrouded in sorcery.
they have eaten (the meal is usually cooked in a fire made with a log
having supernatural and beneficial powers) and attended Midnight Mass
the inhabitants of every house go to bed.
The house is at peace. The whole village is at peace.
while they are sleeping a mysterious person called Olentzaro comes
down the chimney. This Olentzaro, though no one has seen him, is
described as looking like a glutton of a man, grotesque in
appearance. His faced is dirty as if with charcoal; he is probably a
charcoal burner. His eyes are bloodshot and—some even say—he
has as many of them as there are days in a year. He wears a black
beret on his head and in his hand he has a jagged sickle.
makes his appearance and immediately settles down in exactly the same
way as the members of the family, warming himself at the fire of the
great log expressly lit for this night. The flames are very lively
and he feels very pleased indeed. And thus the hours pass until the
night and the inactivity of the mortals begin to draw to a close. So
it is that without further ado he gets up and departs by the way he
had arrived. And thank goodness that the fire had not burnt out and
that it had been hot enough! Because otherwise Olentzaro would have
got himself into a rage with the inhabitants of the house and would
have cut them all to shreds with his sickle...
the book, ‘Cuentos de la Mitología Vasca’ (‘Tales from Basque
Mythology’) by Mercedes Aguirre and Alicia Esteban, Madrid, Ediciones
de la Torre, 2006.