Navidad this year was simple and precious. It is the first time in my life I haven't spent the holiday surrounded by friends, family, platters of goodies, gifts and, well, more gifts. I love my family traditions, but this year was more peaceful than usual...and I was more at peace.
We started Christmas Eve morning with a volunteer brunch in our house where we exchanged our Secret Santa gifts. The quetzal limit was 25 (about 2 dollars) and you'd be surprised with what we came up with for so little. Afterwards we all headed to our sections for work (we cover the caregivers' positions so they can go home for Christmas). I covered the nurses in the clinic.
From my SS: don't judge
In my section we gathered around the Christmas tree and sang Christmas carols in English, German and Spanish, accompanied by a guitarist. Afterwards we ate cookies and then the kids took turns opening their two gifts. The gifts were simple but the kids were ecstatic to receive anything and I think it's pretty rare they get to pull wrapping paper off of anything!
That night we gathered outside the church for the Pasturela, a Christmas nativity pageant performed by the kids, complete with fire...there is definitely a fire thing here. Coal, wood, sparklers, fireworks: it all gets burned on Christmas Eve.
After the performance (lovely!) we gathered together in an outside, covered area to partake of TAMALES. If there is anything you want to know about Guatemalan Christmas traditions, it can be summed up in that one food. And boy were they yummy!
After dinner, we gathered at a bonfire and the kids were given sparklers and small firecrackers (yes even casa de bebes...I had visions of thirty kids lined up at the clinic for burn treatment but surprisingly no one was hurt!). We were given bolsas of fruit, peanuts and candy from a dear family that came to spend their Christmas Eve with us.
My Christmas present came early. As I sat in front of the bonfire, one of the little boys from the baby house came and plopped in my lap. He grabbed my hands and wrapped them around himself with a tight hug and then promptly fell asleep. We sat there for several hours until I felt like my arms would fall off and my bum and legs were numb. Picking him up, I carried him back to his house and helped put him to bed. Seriously, made my day.
The next morning we slept in and ate a late breakfast. Then everyone leisurely enjoyed movies, riding bikes or doing nothing until after dinner. We started Mass in the church with caroling but then processed outside and all around campus, our way lit by candles on the walkway. We returned carrying the baby Jesus wrapped in a swaddling cloth and placed him on the altar. After Father began Mass, Jesus was carried to his manger under a Christmas tree and then we had Mass.
The caroling was beautiful. It's neat learning Christmas songs in Spanish. It's even neater being a part of a simple and beautiful Christmas celebration. There is something to be said for not having things. I did put together presents for all my kids, the nurses, doctor and the kids in the clinic....but really they were just tokens to say: "I thought of you." Because the only thing I really took home from this is that Jesus gives HIMSELF as a person to us and out of love and gratitude, that is the best thing we too can give to each other: OURSELVES.
God bless you! ¡Feliz Navidad! ¡Y Próspero año y felicidad!