Like many people in Spain tonight, I will be watching television at 9pm to see King Juan Carlos' give his annual Christmas speech. To be honest, since it is broadcast on all channels, it is kind of hard to avoid. However, I actually seek it out because I always enjoy it.
One simple reason I like to watch it is that the King speaks so clearly that it's very easy for me to understand everything he says. Another is that after listening to his warm words I always feel a little more integrated into Spain -- especially since he usually expresses welcome to foreigners who have chosen to live here. In addition, since my home country has neither royalty nor a national Christmas speech tradition, this event holds more than a bit of curious charm for me.
Of course some Spaniards love the custom, some hate it, some are indifferent and some find it amusing -- especially comedians and cartoonists. For example, because the King usually starts the speech by saying "La reina y yo" (The Queen and I), that little phrase is consistently used when parodying Juan Carlos. There is even a weekly comic strip by that title which appears in the magazine El Jueves.
In his speech the King typically mentions significant accomplishments of the preceding year and touches on the challenges the nation faces. Other topics usually include Spain's transition to Democracy during his reign, the Spanish Constitution, the country's commitment to European integration, and calls for unity, equality, non-discrimination, and mutual respect.
Perhaps because each year he touches on similar themes and repeats certain words and phrases, this year an enterprising group has created a web site where people can place bets on what the King will say in his Discurso de Navidad-- and how he will say it. On KingandWin.com you can wager money on such pressing matters as:
- Whether or not His Royal Majesty will say the word "pride" or "satisfaction" first.
- Precisely how long the speech will last.
- Will "Eurocup" crop up in the discourse?
- Will the Sovereign sport a striped or a solid tie?
- Exactly how many times will His Illustrious Highness utter "Spain"?
- How many Royal Family members will be in framed photos on his desk?
- Which word will His Royal Highness repeat more often: diversity or majority?
- Will the European Union flag be part of the background?
- How many times will His Excellency use the preposition "de"?
- Will there be a nativity scene on the scene?
- Will His Serene Highness use the word "drugs"?
- Will the Spanish flag be to the Monarch's left or right?
So, tonight, besides listening for the usual expressions of warmth and encouragement I look forward to each year, I will be paying special attention to hear whether or not El Rey uses the word "crisis" once, more than once, or not at all.