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Relations with the family

Intervention of the parents of the spouses

The involvement of the parents in the life and affairs of their married children was said to be more frequent than today. Now they give them advice if they ask for it. Their area of greatest involvement today is to care for and look after the grandchildren.

It was commonly reported in the surveyed locations that the sons and daughters today live more freely when they get married as they are independent from their parents and organise their lives as they want. A saying that is frequently heard referring to the independence that the future spouses are looking for with regard to their parents goes as follows: El casado, casa quiere [A married person wants a house]

The specific involvement of the parents in the life of the spouses happened when two couples lived together, particularly when the married heir (either male or female) to the family homestead had to share a home and live with his/her parents or in-laws and generally subject to their orders. The surveys showed cases of friction between the mother-in-law and daughter-in law. The son would sometimes would take the side of their mother, which caused problems of coexistence. There were also cases of daughters-in-law who accused their mothers-in-law of meddling in the marital relationship or in the education of the grandchildren.

Relations of the spouses with their families of origin

The information gathered in the surveyed locations was similar in nature. It was widely reported that given the role of the wife in the family life, greatest credit has to be given to her even today for maintaining ties with the family of origin. It was also noted that there is a clear inclination to have a closer relationship with the wife’s family.

The most common visits to the family of origin are during the patron saint’s day festivities, celebrations such as weddings, baptisms, important festivities, etc., and funeral ceremonies such as burials, All Saint’s Days, etc.

It was also seen that the closer the other relatives live to the house of the family of origin, the more frequently they visit it, because distance, despite the means of transport that exist today, is always a constraint. When the children move out from the family home, the visits are more frequent at first; and they get more spread out as the years pass. The parents being still alive is an important factor, as their children consider the parents’ house to be home while that is the case. Once they have died, a natural distancing occurs between siblings and cousins because each family group has their own life.

These get-togethers do not have the same importance as in the past given the ease of transport, visits are more frequent and people are regularly in contact by phone or by email.

Gatherings of relatives

Calendar of festivities

Close relatives usually meet at the family home to celebrate Christmas[1]; it has also been common to “divide” the time, in other words, one day they go to the husband’s parents’ house and the other, to the wife’s parents.

Relatives would gather together during the Patron Saint’s festivities. The relatives with ties to the family home would go there with their spouses and children and remain for several days during those festivities. Large amounts of food were prepared for everyone who came. Nowadays, many members of the family have to work during the week and therefore cannot go if the festivity is celebrated on a weekday. Therefore, this type of festivity are being moved to the weekend so that everyone can attend. This custom is in decline as the majority have their own means of transport and so visits are more frequent and shorter.

Historical memories of the house and the family

Barandiaran noted that at the start of the 20th century, in rural areas, all the members of the family would gather in the kitchen on winter nights, around the stove to get on with tasks such as weaving, sewing, etc. That was when old stories about the family, legends and many different traditions would be told, along with discussing religion and the hope with which the family’s ancestors died[2].

Recollections of the ancestors

In general, the houses usually keep a family archive with the wills, the successive conveyance of the house, purchases and sales of fields or upland, photographs of their ancestors, etc. The opening up of ecclesiastical archives has raised interest in genealogy today. Many private individuals, not only researchers and scholars, are interested in studying the origin of the family surname and of the original homestead.

Family memories

Keeping family photographs, keepsakes and documents was common. Certain valuable household goods such as furniture and tableware, along with clothes and jewels were passed on from parents to children.

The people surveyed explained that ordinary houses in the past had little wherewithal, money was scarce and it was therefore no usual to have valuable family keepsakes to pass on. In Añana (A), for example, it was reported that in the majority of cases, the parents left something of the trousseau (sheets, towels, linen, tableware), an animal or farm implements. The better-off families kept family momentos that would range items of daily use to other more valuable ones.

In several locations, people reported that some homes had prized family items and valuable pieces, but many of them were lost in the upheavals of the Civil War.

  1. ETNIKER EUSKALERRIA, “La cena de Nochebuena” in La alimentación doméstica en Vasconia, pp 393-403.
  2. José Miguel de BARANDIARAN. “Aspectos de la transición contemporánea de la cultura en San Gregorio de Ataun” in Etnología y Tradiciones populares. II Congreso Nacional de Costumbres Populares. Zaragoza: 1974, pp. 9-21. Cfr. Obras Completas. Volume VI. Bilbao: 1974, p. 12.