27 December 2010

una navidad guatemalteca

Alright, faithful followers- Here it is. The long-awaited Guatemalan Christmas report.

About 3 weeks ago, we started our extensive decoration plans for the tree/tree area. Being that the tree is about 3 feet tall, we put it on 2 platforms, covered it in bulbs/ home-made ornaments/ tinsel, and surrounded it by a little Christmas town. Now, I don´t want you to get the wrong idea. This Christmas town included a castle made out of papertowel tubes, a plastic play town, a gigantic Mary and Joseph, tinsel, and allllll sorts of porceline/plastic animals (from ducks to turtles to dolphins to reindeer...) No worries if the scale is off... We just want to fill the space with as many items as possible. We also to a neighboring plot and took about 30 10-foot-tall corn stalks in order to make a fence to surround the whole ¨nacimiento¨ (nativity scene). The fence turned out looking really nice, but it was a real engineering marvel to try to figure out how to make it, let me tell you.

About a week before Christmas, we started the process of making a manger for Mary and Joseph-- way harder than it sounds. We used the corn stalk again, as well as about 10 sticks of glue and like 20 hours that we will never get back. Only after all of this did we check to see if the foot-tall Mary and Joseph would fit inside. They do-- but only barely. A few days before Christmas, we covered the scene with styrofoam snow and singing, colored lights... Very festive; very Guatemalan. Once I got the package, the shiny snowflake decorations my parents sent were hung over the scene, as well as the pop-out paper trees.

Alright, so fast forward to La Noche Buena- Christmas eve. We were cooking pretty much all day, though I have no idea why beacuase nothing we made really needed all that long to cook... But in any event, I stayed in the kitchen most of the evening helping. We made beet/brocoli salad with mayo dressing (it was purple), really delicious fiesta rice, and chuletas de pork... Like I said, none of this actually waranted 6 hours of prep, but we did it all one at a time. Yes, that´s right... Dinner for about 25 people, one item at a time. Good. Oh, and we also had ponche. Lots and lots of ponche-- This is basically apple cider with lots of fruit and sugar in it (papaya, coconut, grapes, apples, pineapple...). SO delicious- Definitely something I want to bring back with me.

At around 7:30pm, we had some snack paches (typical Christmas food, kind of like tamales), and my sister Vale and I made a gigantic cake, 2 cakes in fact. It was some variation on angel food cake-- it was yummy, but then we poured a mix of vanilla extract/white wine on top, and frosted it with creamy pudding stuff... It was yummy, but not exactly like Mom used to make.

So at around 11pm -oh yes, I forgot to mention: Dinner is served at midnight- people started getting a little ansy and hungry, so we went out to the street to set off our fireworks... Everyone: from ages 4 to great grandma. Good. Very safe. It´s a big tradition here to set off coquetes for la Noche Buena, so there were big and small fireworks going off allllll around us-- It was really festive (and loud).

So at midnight, we all went inside and everyone hugged everyone, and the foot-long baby Jesus made his way into the manger (which brought 2 people to tears). Finally dinner was served, and at around 1:30, our cake was served, and Juli headed off to bed.

Christmas day we got to sleep in, and just kind of hung around all day- Santa did not come to our house, and in fact, no one exchanged gifts with anyone that I saw. At noon we set off more fireworks (to celebrate the end of Noche Buena and the beginning of Navidad), more hugs, and just sort of hung around all day, and had a big meal at around 3. On the one hand, I love that the materialistic aspect of Christmas isn´t nearly as prevalent here, but on the other hand, it was hard because the day was completely centered around family time, and it made me wish I could be with my own family...

Anywho... I ended up awkwardly giving my gift (a chirades-type board game) to the family the next day at lunch, and we played for a solid 3 hours... Needless to say though it was a day late, it was a hit!

Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and that God blesses you in this new year!
bendiciones, juli

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