Christmas Market in Benicassim, Spain

For 30 years, Benicassim has had a beautiful Christmas tradition that unites the entire city and attracts many visitors from all over Spain. I am talking about the Christmas Market, initiated by a group of young people who desired to selflessly do something good for others during this special time of waiting for the birth of Jesus. Initially, it was modest. Today, the market covers the entire main street of the city. Each year, many people are involved in the preparations and organization of the Market, everyone in his or her own way. Some prepare Christmas decorations, including beautiful centerpieces and nativity scenes. While a group of ladies sew various wonderful and practical things.

Children and teenagers prepare Christmas decorations and other small handmade items. Someone works on tickets for the big raffle; some sponsors gifts and some prepares games for children. Another group bakes delicious cakes and cooks traditional local dishes. Some people practices dances, some prepare music, all in the joyful Spanish rhythms. And finally, some take care of security (our local police) and others spend quite a lot of money to buy the necessary products or rent stalls (city authorities). And maybe there would be nothing extraordinary about it (after all, many such fairs take place in different parts of the world) if not for the fact that each year, all of the income from the Market is destined for some specific charitable aim in a mission country. All the people involved in the Market are volunteers who often spend many hours and days with the whole family preparing everything. We can testify to how much of their hearts and positive energy they put into everything.

This year, marked by the pandemic, the entire organization of the Market was put into question. However, the decision of the local authorities was unequivocal: There must be the Market! After all, this is how we begin the celebration of Christmas in our city. But for sure one can say that everything was done to make the participants of the Market feel safe and to maintain all the effective sanitary norms.

To our surprise and joy, this year the organizers decided to support a missionary project of our Congregation. After consultation with the General Administration, a project in Chiraa, Ghana was chosen: Aid for the poorest children and their families. The funds collected at the Market will be allocated, among others, for the organization of basic education for children (Saturday school activities), purchase of school supplies, shoes, clothes and food, etc. On this occasion we were asked to prepare some information about our Congregation and our mission in Spain. Although time was running short, we managed to prepare the necessary poster as well as information leaflets.

The Market has traditionally been held on the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of joy. The preparations of the stalls began the evening before the event. Some people slept very little that night. God blessed us with beautiful, sunny weather. Hundreds of people passed through the Market from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (200 people could be at the Market at once; gentlemen methodically counted them at the entrance and exit using a special app). Of course, there were hand sanitizing gels everywhere, and masks were obligatory. We had to resign from having the stalls with food. There were also no traditional dances…

This time we also had our own stall, where every two hours we took turns, always two Sisters. Many friends and strangers were coming to us. It was a very good time to talk, to share information about the Congregation, our charism, the mission in Ghana, etc. Pictures attracted attention. Many were happy to recognize Sister Linda smiling to us from her African mission (Sister stayed with us in Spain for almost half a year).

There was a joyful atmosphere. We enjoyed the view of many families with children. It was clear that people were already lacking a sort of normality in the midst of all the concerns and fears of COVID. We were really touched by the dedication and commitment of the organizers, as well as the generosity of the participants. It is not easy for anyone this year. The economic situation in Spain and around the world has put many families in an absolute crisis situation. Therefore, all the more, we were touched by all the gifts of the heart, so generously offered. Penny by penny, or rather Euro by Euro, at the end of the day there was a total of 13,890.15 Euros. God is good! The next day the money was already on its way to Ghana (with the help of a bank account, of course). We trust that this will bring a big smile to the many faces of the small and slightly larger inhabitants of Chiraa.

When for our part, we were trying to thank the organizers for all their efforts, in response we received the following words: It is we who thank you for always being here with us and for your prayers. These words speak for themselves…

Sr. Jana Zawieja

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