Santo Tomás marks for me the start of the Christmas feasting season. The festive tradition of eating and drinking starts here each year on December 21st. This day basically celebrates the txistorra, a long thin basque sausage which you cut into small chunks and fry. And if you’re in Donosti on the 21st, you really can’t miss it. There are fry-ups everywhere. Students, societies and organisations set up makeshift stalls in the old part and Gipuzkoa square, selling txistorra to raise funds for their various activities. There is so much demand for stalls that the town hall has to have a draw to see who gets allocated the 50-odd stalls available. And at 5 euros a talo or baguette, it´s easy to see why it´s a much demanded fund raiser! But as it´s all in a good cause, and as the atmosphere it brings to the city is incomparable, it’s hard to begrudge anyone a few extra euros.
On Santo Tomás everyone has a txistorra baguette or “talo” in one hand and a glass of cider in the other. It would be hard to find anyone in the city who doesn’t eat txistorra on the 21st even if they haven’t bought one from the stands in the centre. Families will fry it as a starter for lunch. Schools get the kids get dressed up in traditional Basque dress and give them their baguettes at playtime. A local producer normally brings us a couple of dozen complimentary baguettes to our offices in the morning. This is pretty common throughout the city. It’s one of those special days where you really get a sense of community in the city, everyone seems to participate, and everyone seems to know everyone else. It’s this all inclusive participation which keeps the tradition alive.
The tradition of Santo Tomás comes from the middle of the 19th century when farmers came to San Sebastián from the countryside to pay their land rents to the owners who lived in the city. They made the most of the trip by setting up a market to sell their wares in the Plaza de la Constitución, in Donosti´s old part. When the transport infrastructure got better, Santo Tomás became an excuse to drink cider and eat Txistorra. They still raffle a big fat pig in la Plaza de la Constitución and have various live animals on display, but the tradition is now pretty much based on eating and drinking. Fair play!
Txistorra itself has basically two things going for it. The fact that it goes well with cider. And that everyone eats it on Santo Tomás. Other than that, it’s a fairly run of the mill, uninspiring sausage. Certainly in terms of quality it can’t compare to the British banger. Nor with the majority of Spanish cold cuts, chorizos and salchichon. What makes txistorra special is that one day a year when everyone pays homage to it. Which just goes to show, sometimes the customs and traditions surrounding what you’re eating are more important that the quality of what you’re eating. Even in Euskadi.
If you fancy some Txistorra to take away from Donosti, the best in my opinion is available from the deli “Pierre” in Intxaurrondo, (Pierre Alberdi Harategia, Zubiaurre 65) although it’s a little out from the centre of Donosti. They will vacuum seal it for you.
Otherwise, Solbes (C/ Aldamar 4) in the old part or Maribel’s stand in San Martin’s Market are a safe bet.
¡¡¡Aupa Santo Tomás!!!