May 4, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Traditions

Ah yes, we all know about the beloved Spanish siesta! If only I had a nickel for every time someone told me they were jealous that I live in Spain because I get to take siestas. I suppose that I would be jealous too if that were really the case.

The concept of the Spanish siesta seems to get perpetuated by the fact that small mom-and-pop shops continue to close during the afternoon hours between 2:00 and 5:00. But I hate to break it to you, very few people actually go on an afternoon break to take a nap. In fact, I’ve never even heard of one person doing so. They only take lunch here in Spain, just like the rest of us (although, indeed a little bit longer – usually from 2:00-4:00).

So where did this Spanish siesta concept come from? Are the Spaniards just too lazy to work through the day? No, this is not the case. The tradition in fact began for several likely reasons. The first is rather obvious – in order to rejuvenate workers by allowing them some time to rest and be with their families. In addition to this, during the Spanish Civil War poverty apparently required Spaniards to take two jobs, or work double shifts, therefore requiring extra rest during the middle of day. Another reason results from the fact that it gets so darn hot here in Spain that during the peak hours of heat, between 2:00 and 5:00, people would rest so that they could then work later in the day during cooler hours. Lastly, given that the the largest meal of the day here is typically lunch, the tradition of a siesta after lunch isn’t entirely surprising. Regardless of where the siesta originated, however, I’m afraid it’s pretty much on its way to extinction (although, I’m not opposed to trying to resurrect the concept!!).

So I’m glad that we now have that settled. While we’re at it, let’s just clarify a couple of other small little myths. First, hardly anyone here actually drinks Sangria with much frequency. I know you Americans love it, but I think you might be the only ones. It’s served here, but mostly for tourists. Also, while we all love paella, unless you live in Valencia (where it is their specialty), it’s just not a staple in the Spaniard’s diet. So enjoy your siestas, sangria and paella, but know that they’re a lot less mainstream for Spaniards than you once may have thought.