#CC18: 7 Days to Christmas

El Cant dels Ocells is a traditional Catalan Christmas song, telling of nature’s joy of the birth of Jesus, and in normal circumstances I would offer one of the many, many beautiful versions of this song here to celebrate the start of the last week before Christmas.

But these are not normal circumstances. Because as we all prepare to enjoy Christmas with our families and loved ones, there are 16 Catalan politicians and political activists who cannot.

In tribute to the political prisoners, El Cant dels Ocells was given new lyrics, which are sung every week when hundreds or thousands of supporters make the pilgrimage to Lledoners prison, where seven of the politicians are held, to audibly provide solidarity.

I had the honour of being part of one such demonstration of solidarity during my visit to Catalonia in September. Whilst my live video of the song appears to have been lost to the online ether, someone else has posted a video from the same day, with many of the flags of my fellow Foreign Friends of Catalonia visible. The video starts with words of thanks from the exiled President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, before the crowd starts singing right next to the prison.

The plight of the political prisoners, still being kept in prison without trial for, in some cases, over a year, has been denounced by the likes of Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Office have criticised the Spanish Government’s response to the self-determination referendum in October 2017 and called on the Spanish Government not to pursue the charges of rebellion.

Whilst the political prisoners would like to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, their efforts are being blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court, which has led to four of the prisoners going on hunger strike. They may well still be on hunger strike when we are sitting down to enjoy our turkey and trimmings on Christmas Day, as, even with two of them now residing in the hospital wing of the prison as a result of their hunger strike, they have shown no intention to end it.

So as we make our final preparations to be with our loved ones, let us take a moment to remember that in the European Union, in the 21st century, there are nine political prisoners who cannot share in that joy. Let us remind them, and each other, that they are not alone, that we are always by their side, and that we want them out of prison and home with their families as soon as possible.

Llibertat Presos Polítics!

The lyrics roughly translate* as follows:

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#CC18: 8 Days to Christmas

When the text appears before the video, it can only mean one thing: I need to warn you about something before you watch.

After yesterday’s child-friendly Countdown to Christmas instalment, I promised today’s would be the polar opposite. And it is.

It is a short, but still very much not safe for work, parody of the great Fairytale of New York by Amateur Transplants. The fact it’s on an album called Have Yourself A Sweary Little Christmas should be another clue that you should not press play if you are in polite company. The parody is called Swearytale of New York and that’s no exaggeration: some of the language might offend.

You have been warned…

#CC18: 9 Days to Christmas

Yes this is really happening.

I should probably feel ashamed right now, and I think part of me is. But it’s still happening.

With the birth of my niece earlier this year, I have been exposed to a number of children’s songs I had long forgotten – and some I had never heard before.

Ironically, the ridiculously annoying yet insanely popular Baby Shark fits neither of those categories. It’s just something I have become aware of through its popularity (though I would point out not through X Factor).

And what does every popular craze do at this time of year when they think they’re on to a good thing? That’s right, they create a festive-themed adaptation to further exploit bring some extra Christmas cheer to the masses.

So with barely a hint of shame or regret, today’s Countdown to Christmas features Santa Shark.

I promise I’ll make it up to you tomorrow!

#CC18: 10 Days to Christmas

Last Saturday, I attended the Catalan Christmas Party in London, organised by several UK-based Catalan organisations.

One of the activities on offer was a short concert by the wonderful London Catalan Choir, and it was the first time I’d seen them perform.

Sure, I knew of them before Saturday, but until you hear them live you don’t know just how amazing they are. Let me tell you something: they earned themselves at least one new fan last week!

From the moment they started, I knew I wanted to include them on the Countdown to Christmas, so I took out my phone and started recording.

You’ve probably already seen a short clip or two, but this is the only song I managed to film all the way through: Regala Petons. The original featured on last year’s Countdown, and rather aptly is by the only Catalan artist I’ve seen performing live (so far).

Sure, the camera angle isn’t the greatest, and the audio recording really doesn’t do them justice (what do you expect from a phone?), but I’m sure you’ll still agree that they are a really talented group of singers!

And if my video is not good enough for you, you could always watch their own video of the performance. No, really, please do!

#CC18: 11 Days to Christmas

Today is Christmas Jumper Day.

Up and down the country, children will be heading into school and adults into work in their most festive woollen attire in aid of Save The Children.

And they usually have one thing in common. No, not the people, but the jumpers: they are usually hideous.

In recognition of this, on today’s Countdown to Christmas we have Rebecca Zamolo lamenting just how ugly the things are, in an oddly upbeat manner.

And me? I have a perfectly-timed day off work today. However, I will be sporting my usual Gills-themed jumper at the office Christmas meal this evening.

Well, someone has to, I suppose!