Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 12/29/2010

Christmas- Guatemalan style

29 diciembre 2010- miercoles!

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año!

The flame of 2010 flickers slowly as it reaches its end. Goodbye to the triumphs and sorrows that year brought upon the world.  In its place will glow the new bright fire that is 2011. Best wishes to all for a Prospero Año y Felicidad (Successful Year and Happiness).

Christmas Eve awakened with happy baking for me…I had treated myself to the purchase of a toaster oven the previous day at the Hiperpaiz store in Xela. December 23rd was a bustling day in Xela,  full of shoppers for gifts and meal preparations. Not surprisingly, there were many ofertas (discounts), so I decided to aprovechar (take advantage) of these and bought my toaster oven for 319 quetzales (about $40). Best purchase yet! Since my host family had

Photo Xmas Tree

left me on my own for the holidays, heading off to Huehuetenango to spend 5 days there with their son, I chose a familiar activity to keep me happy and bustled about with my holiday tradition of baking. Although a tiny oven, great treats rolled out from its warmth. Hmm, peanut butter bars with chocolate chips, snickerdoodles, and banana squares with chocolate chips…even granola for an occasional breakfast treat!

I have befriended some shopkeepers nearby and surprised them with some of my treats, telling them that my holiday costumbre (custom) is to gift treats to friends and neighbors. “Usted es mi vecino, entonces Feliz Navidad!”  As a happy Ms. Claus, I handed out goodies during the morning of Xmas eve. In the afternoon I made my way to the home of Doña Fina, my new adopted host mom, to help with the main meal. Here in Guatemala, Christmas eve or “la buena noche” is the special day…generally there is much tamale-making and eating, however, there had been a death in the family  just a week prior so the celebration was toned down a bit. We still ate well: roasted chicken, avocados, spaghetti,

Xmas eve dinner

tortillas, and for beverage,  a delightful hot holiday ponche  (punch) with various fruits. My contribution was the  dessert finale, banana squares with chocolate chips which her two daughters helped me to bake…3 pans went into the oven for the anticipated 50 guests (actually about 35 came).

Fireworks are the traditional Guatemalan celebration for Xmas eve…the stores had been stocking up for weeks. Filled with great food, the children at the party begged for matches to begin their dance of sparklers and other small fireworks. Less hovering over kids

Bright Celebration of Xmas Eve

here…so they were off and running with their mini flames. The adults sat around a small bonfire and chatted, sometimes in K’iche’, so I alternately hung out with the kids and adults. Around 10pm, party guests were taking their leave, and so did I. Not until midnight did the more serious fireworks begin…so I kept myself busy at home  until then bringing more snickerdoodles into the world.

Try to imagine your neighbor setting off the equivalent of major

An evening of lights

July 4th fireworks, the kind that cities purchase. I stood out in the street at midnight, bundled up in my many layers, watching at least 3 major fireworks displays going off in different areas of the town….kids also kept up their various small fireworks in the streets; what a cacophony of percussive sounds! Finally at 12:45am, the light show came to an end, with the streets resembling a war zone with the remains of fireworks and lingering smoke. Perhaps only the Catholics head to a midnight mass, but this evangelical family had replied very matter-of-factly to my inquiry about a church service for Xmas eve….that no service was scheduled.  Merry Christmas I told myself, and headed to bed to catch a few hours of sleep.

Christmas Day began very early…4:45am. Happily, I had been invited to join Doña Fina and family for an outing to the beach for Christmas Day. I munched a few mini Hershey chocolate bars that I had hastily stuffed into a sock the night before. (Can’t give up all traditions!) I glanced at my “Xmas tree” which is a tree outline on my wall filled with photos of family and friends, and headed out the door. Sleepily we all bundled into the car, throwing a blanket over us for warmth…it was easily in the 30sF. I peered out at the  frosty white fields before heading back into slumber. Several hours later we stirred awake, and began peeling off clothing as the scenery changed from mountains to tropical paradise. Palm trees lined the road and people in shorts and T-shirts biked and strolled along…I felt like I had been transported to my childhood home of San Diego!

Christmas Day at my beloved Pacific Ocean!

First stop was breakfast at a beach restaurant, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We were in the beach town of Champerico. Throughout the day, more Guatemalan families streamed to the dark sand and warm waters….I mused that probably many were like ourselves escaping the mountain cold for this sunny holiday treat! So Christmas Day here seems to be a family outing day…not much about gifts, which is quite a delightful change (although the consumerism of the U.S. is steadily advancing). Kind of like the day after Thanksgiving .  So I romped in the warm Pacific ocean with 10 yr old Bonnie, holding tight to her in the waves. We had been warned about rip currents at many beaches, so I was content to stay in shallow water. So interesting to see women in the traditional traje (outfits) wading into the sea. And yes, there were those who pandered to the tourists. Several family members mounted horses to get their photos taken and be led about for a brief walk. I wish I had taken a photo of the various men carrying enormous inflated sharks and cameras, for a memento of conquering a Big White during your outing to the beach! So funny! I never did see anyone availing themselves of that photo opportunity.

After a few hours at the beach, we headed  inland to a fancy hotel with a swimming pool and luxuriated there for lunch and a few hours of play. This Guatemalan family is definitely middle class because many families could not afford such an outing…they might have a car to get away for a short and more modest trip. After a last snack of an ice cream, we bade farewell to the sunny  warmth of the coast and bounced along the road back to our home in the mountains, arriving around 8pm.

What a fantastic Christmas celebration here in Guatemala!




  1. Thank you again, Janet, for keeping us close

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