The Siesta

There’s nothing better than taking a little time out of our hectic daily schedule to relax. In fact, most European nations have mastered the technique of taking a mid-afternoon break from work to sit down with family and friends to enjoy each other’s company. Take for instance English afternoon tea. Although nowadays considerably fewer Britons enjoy afternoon tea and those who do spend it in a café or tea shop, it originated as a time between 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. to take a much-needed break from work and to enjoy a light meal and a conversation with family and friends.

Arguably the most famous mid-afternoon break is still practiced in Spain today. This famous time of rest and relaxation is called the siesta and its influence has been so far-reaching that many Central and South American countries have adopted its leisurely ways.

The Siesta

The siesta is a mid-day break, usually from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m., in which most businesses and schools close their doors so that everyone can go home for a relaxing lunch with their families. After lunch, it’s common to rest or take a short nap. Today, the siesta is still a common tradition observed by most citizens, but its origins began hundreds of years ago in the Southern-most region of Spain, Andalucía.

The ancient ancestors of Andalucía used the sixth hour, right around noontime, to eat a meal and then relax afterwards to rejuvenate their bodies and refocus their minds on their daily activities. In fact, the word siesta is derived from the Latin word “hora sexta”, meaning the sixth hour from dawn. The ancestors in Andalucía believed the siesta also had tangible health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Plus, in Spain’s warm and sunny Mediterranean climate, the siesta was necessary to avoid the hot mid-day heat. But overall, the siesta became embedded in Spanish culture and it taught its citizens to take a little break from work to enjoy some well-deserved rest.