Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!!!
Having just spent my first Christmas in Guatemala and soon my first New Years, I have to say that I just love the holiday season. It was bittersweet, to not be at my “home” home with my real family, but it was still a wonderful experience to learn new traditions here with my second family. Christmas in rural Guatemala centers on family, community activities, religious practices and food. I guess in those general terms, it’s like back home. How it plays out is a different story….I don’t even know where to start! In the weeks prior to Christmas we inaugurated the town Christmas tree, handed out 800 toys to area kids, gave out food baskets to needy families, had a duranguense concert/dance, had a Christmas parade, and saw a gorgeous fireworks show. On the family level, we headed out the 22nd to buy supplies in Xela: moss and colored sawdust for the big nativity scene, pine and apple strings to decorate, fireworks, tamal ingredients, new clothes for the big day, presents for the gift exchange, etc. I have never seen the market so busy and fun! We set up the nativity scene that night and the 23rd, I have pics below so you can see how it combined with tree branches and such to be quite the Christmas arrangement (instead of a typical Christmas tree). On the 24th we cleaned the house, I made Christmas sweets from back home, went to Christmas Eve mass and then we came home to start the celebration with a dinner of pork and chicken tamales and caliente (a hot drink made from coconut, apples, papaya, pineapple and cinnamon). The extended family came over after that to partake in a big gift exchange and then we all waited for midnight to come. That’s when we prayed over the holy family, went out in the streets to light off firecrackers, hugged all the neighbors outside doing the same thing, ate more tamales and opened out stockings (I brought those from back home). It was exhausting (going to bed at 2am) but so much fun! The 25th was spent visiting the other grandparents and I snuck out a bit to have an American Christmas lunch with the Catholic nuns that live in my town (tasty ham and homemade apple crisp!). We went to Christmas mass together and then spent the rest of the night around town hanging out, having wars with firecrackers and eating what else but of course tamales :)
The best way to start the party, with reindeer antlers and great friends!
Getting the car decorated for the parade...I contributed the tree on top, stockings and fake snow....and we won first place!
The ceremony giving out toys and food baskets.
Oh, so this isn't directly related to Christmas although I just wanted to show the frost that was on my blanket outside the morning of the 23rd, at 8am. The cold definitely reminds me of back home!
Fireworks in the street.
Eating tamales at midnight.
The nativity scene.
The extended family on Miguel Angel's side after the gift exchange.