Since I have been horrible at this blog thing, I have decided to write a Christmas blog, then rewind and recap the last two months! Am very sorry for my absence but here is what I have been up to the past few weeks…
December 17th-20th, the four of us YAVs and Marcia (our site coordinator) met here in Xela for our own little Christmas retreat. We got lots of rest, watched lots of Christmas movies, discussed the books we had read over the previous few weeks, cooked a delicious Christmas lunch, exchanged secret Santa gifts, and I gave a presentation on feminist theology. There was also a lot of laughter involved throughout the entire retreat! (Below: Austin, myself, Julianne, Marcia and Jackie with our prepared feast!)
Upon my return to my host family, I learned just how beautiful Christmas is here in Guatemala! The week before Christmas is celebrated by Posadas. The word “Posada” is defined as “a government operated or approved inn offering moderately priced rooms to tourists.” However, the word “posada” has a different meaning for the church! Each evening, members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church would meet at a church member’s house. The children would dress up: Mary would wear a white cloak, Joseph a cowboy hat (very cute!) and there would be several children wearing colorful cloaks to represent the kings. The rest of us would wear santa hats or reindeer ears, and follow behind the children. At the front of the crowd was always a child holding a star. In addition, we would all hold sparklers, and some would hold lanterns with candles in them.
We paraded through the neighborhood for about twenty minutes- singing carols all the way! Once we arrived at another church member’s house, a couple people would step inside and we engaged in a sing-a-long. The people on the inside would sing “Who is knocking on the door? ” And the rest of us would sing the story of Mary’s pregnancy and the need to get her a room.
Once the song was finished, we would step inside and sing some more. Than; the Padre would read some scripture and give a short message. We sang some more and recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles Creed. After all of this, the family served a small meal and a hot drink (usually ponche- a cider drink with papaya, pineapple, and apple- yum!). The remainder of the evenings were filled with laughter, children running around, more Christmas music, and good fellowship. The next night, we always met at the former house, the children got dressed, and we caroled to the next house. (Below: the children singing and patiently waiting for dinner. Behind them is an example of a Nativity scene found in most houses this time of year)
Christmas Eve at midnight is when Christmas is celebrated here. So last night, our evening started at 8pm. We went to church and had the final Posada. Then the children acted out the nativity scene. Following the performance, we had mass and sang “Silent Night” by candlelight. (Below: St. Mark’s church during the candlelight vigil; my host family and I)
After the service, we went back to our house for “ un rattito”(a quick minute that usually lasts much longer than that) and opened gifts to/from each other. I bought each of my host sisters a blouse and my host mother a dress. They gave me a purse and a scarf- very thoughtful!
Next, we went over to my host-father’s parent’s house, where we ate pachas: rice, chicken and sweet olives in a delicious sauce wrapped up in banana leaves. After this, we made our way over to my host-mother’s parent’s house. Around midnight, we all gathered around the Christmas tree with the nativity scene and said a prayer. Each person prayed for what they were thankful for. I expressed my thanks for this experience in Guatemala and the family that I have been placed with. One of my aunts expressed thanks for my presence. This prayer was followed by the Lord’sPrayer and the Apostle’s Creed. Then one of my aunts placed baby Jesus in the manger scene. (Below: Pacha!; the Christmas tree and Nativity scene at my grandmother’s house)
As we were praying, fireworks began going off like crazy! We all stood up and hugged each other. There were many “Feliz Navidads” and “Dios Se Bendistes.” There was hardly a dry eye in the room- it was a beautiful experience. Afterwards, we all went outside and watched the fireworks. I have never seen such a display- fireworks in every direction! The show went on for about thirty minutes. I stood there praying for each and every blessing in my life- including those of you reading this blog. I am told that the same tradition takes place at New Years- and I look forward to it! (Below: My host mother and grandmother on Christmas Eve)
We then stepped inside and ate…yup, more pachas! And the children opened their gifts, including my two year old 2nd cousin who loved the tennis shoes I bought him! Then we popped open some bubbly and shared in some more fellowship. (Below: my 2nd cousin, Victor, opening his gift from me!)
After arriving back at our house around 2am, we all crashed until the next morning when we ate- you guessed it- pachas! Then at noon, we went back over to my host mother’s parent’s house and said another prayer around the Nativity scene. Then we ate lunch (not pachas this time, but chicken and rice) and watched the kids play with all of their new toys. We did, however, have pachas for dinner(: (Below: Victor and I on Christmas day- with the scarf my family gave me;- my cousin, host sisters and I on Christmas day)
My prayer this day is that we all remember our blessings- no matter how big or small. Please know that I am grateful for your presence in my life- I am grateful that our paths have crossed…however that has happened. Know that there is someone in another country who is thankful for the blessing of your love and friendship.
Feliz Navidad, dear ones! Dios Se Bendiste! Love, Kristi