top of page

GARDEN SURROUNDINGS: Spain - Basque And American Traditions

By Francesca Filanc, for Let’s Talk Plants! February 2023.

Spain - Basque and American Traditions

The holidays this past year 2022, as well as ringing the New Year in, were spent with my family in Spain. My daughter Yvette and her two daughters live in a small village on the side of a mountain about half an hour outside of Pamplona. Pamplona was made famous by Ernest Hemingway and the Running of the Bulls, La San Fermin, every summer. This festival takes place for ten days and the bulls run down the streets of Pamplona to the bull ring.

I travel every year to see my family in Spain, but I had not been in three years because of the pandemic. Christmas trees have recently come into fashion in Spain. However, most people who put them up buy ornamental trees that go back into the closet after the holidays. Poinsettias are very popular for the holidays in Spain. They all came from Encinitas originally. Made famous by Paul Ecke.

Yvette has lived over half her life in Europe. Most of it in Spain with a year in France. She has brought her California traditions to Spain. The small village where they live now celebrates Halloween the way we do in the states. She loves Thanksgiving and misses it, so she has a feast for Thanksgiving and all the neighbors bring food to add to the feast.

On the day before Olentzero, the Basque Santa Claus, we went to a beautiful nursery in Pamplona with my granddaughter Anushka and one of her friends. The girls were dressed in the traditional costumes of the day. The costumes are traditionally made by the grandmothers. My granddaughter’s other grandmother is Spanish Basque, and she made their beautiful costumes.

This was a beautiful nursery garden. There were at the most six or seven live Christmas trees. It reminded me of Rogers Gardens in Orange County. So interesting because it was not crowded at all. There were practically no people. Anushka picked out the perfect tree. Yvette was going to tie it on top of her car but found out that it is illegal to do that in Spain. So, she went back later to bring the tree home. And carried it up and into the house by herself! We were all fast asleep. We awoke to the beautiful tree on Christmas Eve and Olentzero was coming to their village this year.

The author and her daughter...

...and the author with her grandaughters.

It is a tradition for the children of the village to go pick up the other children at their homes and when all are gathered together, they all go to the festival together at the meeting hall where they have parties in the town. People came from neighboring villages to the festival of Olentzero. The village changes every year where the festival is held. Fourteen children, all ages from seventeen down to three or four, showed up at our house to pick the girls up. They saw the tree ready to be decorated. Anushka put up the lights with a friend and then Mikaela and the whole town joined in to help decorate the tree.

This painting by Francesca Filanc is called JOY from a new series called Healing the World Through Higher Consciousness of Thought.

Enjoy February and Valentine’s Day in Your Gardens!

~ Francesca


Artist, author, photographer, fly-fisher woman, Francesca Filanc grew up in old Del Mar and these days lives, paints and gardens in historic Olivenhain with a French poodle.

Find her art and writings here:

She can be found on

social media here:

Have gardening questions or want to learn more about Francie’s art? Contact:


bottom of page