Sun, sangria, siesta

Article published on Feb. 21, 2007
Article published on Feb. 21, 2007

You’ve just eaten. The blood is heading for the stomach. Depending on the country you're in, you’ll have had a quick sandwich or will have returned home for a good square lunch.

Clearly, a siesta is the panacea to our digestive difficulties, with doctors recommending a sleep of no more than 20 minutes, the time that the body needs to get itself in order to face the rest of the day.

The word siesta ['sjesta] comes from the Latin expresión referring to the sixth hour (hora sexta). That's to say, between the lapsus, or break in the day, between 12 noon and 3 o’clock. Across Europe, the Spanish word is widely known since it’s used for that magic formula all tourists in Spain are familiar with: sun + sangria + beach = siesta.

But in truth, who has time for a siesta these days? The Mittagsschlaf? Ok, the Germans say, senior citizens and kids can take naps. In the UK, many companies recommend their employees enjoy power-naps. But can you picture the scene - top London executives snoozing away on their desks? A Spaniard would be horrified! The siesta is something you do at home, all comfy on the sofa with the afternoon news on in the background.

The French with their typical attention to detail know what a 'regular' siesta is, but prefer their sieste crapuleuse. Who wouldn’t rather have a communal siesta? What is clear is that any longer than 20 minutes, unless it’s the French siesta in company, is not a siesta at all, but just skiving. As Samuel Becket put it: 'No passion more powerful than the passion of sloth.'