Christmas with our Guatemalan Family (Andy)

Trip Start Oct 04, 2009
Trip End Nov 20, 2010

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Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Thursday, December 24, 2009

Guatemalans know how to celebrate christmas. Its not about going to bed early or leaving out cookies for Santa or even opening the presents on Christmas day. Its about staying up drinking late into the night, being with your extended family for a midnight meal and letting off a crap-load of fireworks. This is the kind of party I can get into on an annual basis.

Cesar, Monica and the family were nice enough to invite us to celebrate Christmas with their family and we thought rather than start our traveling and end up somewhere where we knew noone for Christmas it would be much more enjoyable to be with our Guatemalan family. So we each got little presents for the family and set them up under the tree next to an extremely detailed nativity set. Every family in Guatemala makes their own nativity set it seems like and instead of using a few small characters around a small stable they create this massive elaborate scene normally depicting the nativity scene in Guatemala (the volcanos are a dead giveaway). Some of these scenes (such as Cesar's sisters in the house next to us) are absolutely enormous, taking up two table lengths and prepared using different colored saw dusts as the base. They are just very impressive.

That night we had a dinner of tomales with just the immediate family. The Guatemalan tomale (each central american country seems to have their own) is corn maize puree (for lack of a better term), pork, tomatos mashed into a sort of sauce, wrapped in a banana leaf. It's kind of like putting a tiny bit of tomato sauce in mashed potatoes with a little pork and wrapping it in a huge leaf. I wasnt a huge fan only because I wish the corn maize puree really was mashed potatoes but they are still a decent meal. Lindsey thought if you closed your eyes it almost tasted like lasagna.

After the meal we handed out gifts to everyone and watched little Gabriel play with his new toys. The kid is so freaking cute its ridiculous. Tim handed me probably one of the top ten presents I've ever received. This whole trip I've been talking about how I should buy a drug rug because 1. why not 2. it reminds me of the movie Airborne and 3. the ridiculousness of them is just too much for me to pass up. Well, he called my bluff and got me one. It's everything I hoped for.

Then the family mysteriously just said "ok, now you have to stay awake until midnight." Without wanting to give us anymore details we took their word for it, threw on a movie and started the waiting game. It's tough not to sleep after a dinner of corn maize, especially for someone like me. My friend Jared is the only other person I've met with my distinct problem of falling asleep everywhere, but it was like this that I fell asleep in a chair, with Lindsey sitting on top of me watching a movie. The next thing I know, someone is trying to blow up Guatemala. Loud bangs and cracks are firing off everywhere and the sky is just lit up. We run upstairs to the roof of the house to see every neighborhood around us shooting up hundreds upon hundreds of fireworks. I really can't do it justice in my writing so just watch the movies below cause it really was amazing to watch.

After probably an hour of watching the fireworks and hanging out with sparklers in the streets with Cesar and Monica's extended family we all went inside for the 1am dinner of more tomales and punch. The entire family got together (probably around 30 of them) and had a few drinks chatting us up a storm. Everybody made us feel included and continually offered us more food or booze. It really was a perfect way to end our time in Guatemala. Just getting a chance to hang out with the family in that setting was exactly what we needed. It would be tough to leave everyone but it was nice to have this night to remember them.

After a few more drinks we called it a night and headed to bed. Most of the family was still up and drinking but I just couldnt take much more on Christmas Eve. I mean normally Im in bed at like 9pm so this was a lot for me to handle. And that ended up being our Christmas in Guatemala. Now if only we can get this tradition started in the states.

Hasta Luego,
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