In the Christian calendar Sunday was Epiphany, a word that has taken on a wider meaning over the centuries, and which as a normal noun means something like 'revelation' or 'deep understanding'.
It's that kind of time in La Liga too, because although in Spain it was a big day for presents from the three kings, it was also a day to reflect - one week before the half-way stage to the season but also the game which tells you a lot about your players - upon whether they're capable of hiding the effects of too much turrón or simply able to get back into gear, after the Christmas break. It also depends on how you finished in December, and Real Madrid seemed to have carried on where they left off, beating Zaragoza 2-0 to stay seven points clear at the top. More of that later.
But as on festive occasions of yore, when the fixture-list makers in England, for example, would ensure that attractive-looking games would be played on Boxing Day or New Year's Day, Epiphany came up with a couple of local derbies, Sevilla v Betis and Valencia v Levante - both games featuring same-city teams. All four sides have had a 2007 to forget, although some more than others.
Sevilla had a good first half to the year, but things began to go awry in the summer with the Dani Alves saga, and then got worse with the death of Antonio Puerta and the departure of their most successful ever manager to Tottenham. For Betis it's been fairly grim for some time now, a period lit only briefly by their Copa Del Rey win in 2005. And predictably, they were stuffed in the Sánchez Pizjuan by their higher-flying neighbours, who are creeping back up the league and beginning to look more like their old selves. There weren't the usual shenanigans either, since Puerta's death seems to have brought the city to its senses, a least for this season.
Sevilla's next challenge will be to hold on to Dani Alves, once again the subject of speculation because of the potential domino effect in England of the possible move from Tottenham to Chelsea of the excellent Dimitar Berbatov. If Berbatov goes, and everything rather suggests that he will (unlike Alves, he can play for his new team in the Champions League) then the overflowing coffers at White Hart Lane will be sent in a Spanish direction, according to the tabloid 'Marca' this weekend, who complained on their front page that the English Premier was about to 'sack' the Spanish league and denude it of its best players - or those that are left.
The man most mentioned is Valencia's David Villa, a player whom Juande Ramos admires and one who would probably like to get away from the Mestalla, now that the club seem mired in an official crisis. Chelsea like Villa too, but have prioritised Berbatov or Anelka, whichever they can get. Villa doesn't speak English and is cup-tied, but apart from that he's the number one target. Now that everyone seems to be wondering just why Fernando Torres escaped them, they don't want to let Villa go the same way.
Other names mentioned as possible new fodder for the English Premier were three from Real Madrid; Saviola, Drenthe and Soldado, but they're hardly Spain's finest. Saviola is apparently interesting Bolton, themselves resigned to losing Anelka, and you presume that the little Argentine would score goals over there, despite finding the physical aspect of the game a bit tricky perhaps. Drenthe, yet to fit in to La Liga's mindset, might fancy the style over there, and Soldado, another of Real Madrid's nearly men, would most likely prosper, given his more physical style.
Both these latter two are allegedly destined for Tottenham, if the rumours are to be believed. Real Madrid might regret transferring two goalscorers in one fell swoop, should Van Nistlerooy get injured, but they must know what they're doing. Berbatov has also been a target for Mijatovic, but they're not too keen on the £35million valuation.
Which brings us to the other derby, the rather less habitual one between Valencia and bottom-of-the-table Levante. Amazingly, Levante had not picked up a single point on their travels so far this season, and had never in their history picked up a point in the Mestalla. The game finished 0-0 and clearly served to only deepen the sense of panic on the New Year air in the city.
Valencia have now won only one game under Koeman, against the mighty Murcia, are out of the Champions and the UEFA, and although they still sit 7th in the table they're a long way from the Champions League and the money it would bring them next season.
Perhaps that bid for Villa will be too tempting to refuse, even though it would leave them with a half-crocked Morientes, a stuttering Arizmendi and an out-of-depth Zigic, who looked fine at Santander but who has little understanding of the kind of touch-and-go system that Koeman is (unsuccessfully) trying to impose.
To add to the club's woes, the three wise men, Cañizares, Albelda and Angulo, all of whom were swiftly dispatched to the rubbish heap by Koeman - an extraordinary decision given their pedigree and status at the club, are still there and making life difficult for the present regime, which is only to be expected. Albelda is taking the club to court over the cool sum of 60million euros, which is one hell of a lot of money but which legally might be his. Angulo and Cañizares would seem to be negotiating their way out more quietly, but to add to the club's troubles, Manuel Fernandes, their player loaned out to Everton, apparently got into a Joey Barton-like scrap (although in this case with the police) in the small hours last week and is currently under arrest, unable to return to England. When and if he finally gets back to Merseyside, he can at least say that he has learned how to behave appropriately, in English footballing terms.
Whatever, in the last ten years, Valencia have only once finished outside the top five, winning two leagues and reaching two Champions League finals in the process. Maybe the cycle is about to bust, if their woeful performance at home to Levante is anything to go by.
The demonstrations against the president, Juan Soler, didn't help matters, and in midweek the pressure is back on big-time, when the team travel to Betis in an attempt to save their season by staying in the Copa Del Rey, the competition they last won back in 1999 in the days when it was the icing on the cake for them. Now it's the very crumbs.
There's no easy explanation for what has gone wrong, but the problems seem to stem more from extra-footballing matters. It's true that the average age of the players associated with the good times is somewhat too high, and that the authority of Ayala is missed, but the club had plenty of time to go about replacing him with someone more exciting than Helguera. Koeman seems to have decided that the basic problem resided in the dressing-room factions, built up over the past two seasons where one camp was with Carboni and the other with Quique Sanchez.
Quite what the president was doing all this time is an open question, but Koeman - either under orders or not - has presumed to have identified the guilty partners. In order to impose his authority and begin a new regime unfettered to the previous one, he has fingered the members of the officer class who were most likely to get in his way. Now the soldiers only have Koeman and his deputy, Jose Mari Bakero, to take their orders from, but in the short term it's a high-risk strategy and one which seems, at least in part, to be contributing to the on-field problems.
But focusing on the positive, Espanyol have now gone 16 games unbeaten, and equalled their best ever record, established in the early 1970's. No-one gave a fig for them at the start of the season either. They're only a point behind Barça, and although they don't have the same pretensions, why not dream? They've got a great goalkeeper, a great midfield, and a great striker in Raúl Tamudo, who is now the active player with most goals in the league, behind the other Raúl (Gonzales). Something in a name? Christen your new son (or daughter) 'Raúl' if you want to breed a striker.
Real Madrid carried on playing ordinarily but winning, relying on their keeper Casillas to once again pull off a string of supernatural saves, then punishing Zaragoza for getting a bit too ambitious. What a difference a year makes eh? At this stage last season, they also beat Zaragoza (1-0) at home and played decently for the first time in months - but all was not well. They'd already shipped ten points at home, as opposed to zero this season. Ronaldo and Beckham had just been consigned to the stadium seats, and Capello, on leaving his bench to walk down the tunnel gave the crowd his famous 'up yours', the 'corte de manga' so favoured by bad-tempered Latins.
Now Capello's in England, in semi-retirement, Becks the same in LA (with occasional sightings on Arsenal's training-ground) and Ronaldo is somewhere in Italy. Life goes on and Van Nistelrooy keeps scoring.
Next week we'll have the traditional half-term report. Watch this space.