Noche de Paz, Noche de Amor
Scott, Graciela, Josesito and our
Our favorite time of year. We all know how it works back in the
States. However, things are a bit different here.
starters, things are pretty low-key. We didn't get our Christmas Tree (arbol
navideņo) until Decemeber 22nd. In fact, it wasn't really a Christmas
tree at all.
Instead, our brother Francisco hiked up the mountain behind our house and
chopped off a branch from one of the Cypress trees. It smelled nice and
piney, but it didn't have the same shape as what we're used to. It really
did resemble the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We propped
it up in an old coffee can and gave it some support by tying strings to it and tying the other end to the wall. Afterward, it
was time to decorate.
untangled the Clark Griswald ball of Christmas lights and put them
on the tree, which, of course, was complete with mechanical Christmas music. Next, the boys unwrapped a good-sized ceramic nativity scene and
placed it beneath the tree on a bed of pine needles. Even though the
donkeys had long since lost their ears, and Joseph was a no-show due to the fact
that he was shattered to smithereens in an accident a few Christmases back, the
scene was very pretty. We tried to find a Power Ranger replacement so Maria
wouldn't be "soltera" but the one I found was no good. "Es
chica" (it's a girl) said Marlon. Sorry Maria, I tried.
Scabby y Josesito untangle lights
didn't have a huge box of ornaments for the tree. Instead, we made
some. The tradition is to hang mandarin oranges
(the REAL kind... not the kind that come in heavy syrup in an aluminum can) and
candy from the branches of the tree. Scott particularly enjoyed the idea
of edible ornaments. This is definitely a tradition we will bring
home. The candy... not the mandarins, because the cans would be to heavy and
the slices would get all drippy and then all dry. We both wanted more ornaments, so Gabby got all
corralled the kids. We were a virtual ornament factory, cranking out
decorations made from old plastic lids and magazine cutouts. The kids had
a really good time, and we did too.
decorating fun Mary solita (note: Joesph's
gone) Josesito w name ornament
Eve is the big celebration time here. We went to the market in the afternoon to
buy a bunch of food and goodies for the festivities. When we finally
returned home, it was time for church. We headed up the mountain to the
pueblo of Cantel (we live in the Fabrica de Cantel) to the
chapel at 7:30pm, fully expecting to partake in the service. Instead, we
found Graciela's sister there, in charge of making 200 sandwiches for the post-service get-together. Rather than leave her with
all of the work, we chipped in. So, we stirred a cauldron full of chicken
salad, and spooned it onto about a zillion loaves of bread. We missed the
whole service except for the short drama that starred our brother, Edwin, as one
of the two (not three) kings and the sandwiches were finished just in time. The service ended with
the fourth of four of the world's lowest renditions of "Noche De Paz" ("Silent Night" in
Spanish) and the congregation made quick work of the chicken salad sandwiches.
arrived home at about 10:30pm to a house without electricity. Everyone rested for a
bit in the candlelight, until one of the
kids broke out the fireworks around 11:15pm. It's the tradition here to
set off fireworks at midnight on Christmas Eve, so our family did it up
right. You could hear people shooting off fireworks throughout the whole
valley. The local fabrica (factory) sounded it's siren at midnight as
In Guatemala, I think their motto is: "The Louder The
Better." It was pretty incredible, especially considering the fact
that the vast majority of the fireworks are illegal back in the U.S., especially
the kind people have here.
Injuries due to burns are pretty common here, but our celebration went off
after midnight, the whole family gathered for a big meal by candlelight, complete with hot
chocolate. By this time of the night, everyone was exhausted. Even
though the gift exchange immediately follows dinner, the kids were falling
asleep. This was a change from the norm, for sure.
Eduardo falling asleep,
Josesito enjoying Xmas Eve
first to open gifts were the three youngest kids. They each received a
small, battery-operated car with a remote control. Next, Martin
and Graciela gave us our gifts - tropical parrot figurines with a small
snow-globe containing another tiny parrot. We were incredibly grateful to receive
them especially since Martin had told us recently that he didn't have enough money to
buy medicine to treat a stomach condition. What's more, the other
five members of the family (Martin, Graciela, Edwin, Francisco and Yadira) did
not exchange gifts.
is our custom in the states, we had purchased a little something for every
member of the family. The majority of them opened their gifts very
carefully, making sure not to tear the paper. Each one of them had a bright
smile when they finally saw what was inside. Even though each gift was
very small, we were thanked over and over again.
what was perhaps the nicest part of the whole celebration was that the gifts
were just a small part of Christmas. Instead, the focus was on spending
time with family and giving thanks for the blessings in life. It's a
holiday we will never forget.
If you have any
or advice for us, drop us a