Saturday, December 26, 2015

First Christmas in Guatemala

It's been a busy, exciting, crazy, awesome Christmas! I got an icky cold a few days before Xmas and have been hacking, sniffling, and moaning my way through the holidays, but I've tried my best to not let it get me down. Naps helped! :)

I've been snapping photos of interesting Guatemalan Christmas things and wanted to share them with you all, as well as a few photos of our own Xmas fun.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Tons of booths were set up on the street selling fireworks. We found out why later. :)
Extra stalls were set up at the market selling Christmas decorations, toys, and more fireworks!
There were also many more fruit vendors, especially pineapples.
I called this "fringe". When I tried to buy some, they just sold me plastic sheets and told me that I had to cut it myself!
It was hanging in almost every street and alley in town.
For many days leading up to Christmas, there were Mayans selling moss, lichen, branches, and pinecones, plus deer and other animals made of straw and sticks. I found out it was to make a nativity scene.
Then the day before Xmas, they also sold Xmas trees!
Many boys and men started walking the town covered in tinsel for sale!
Palm trees covered in lights! Our next-door neighbour decorated his cactus with lights. I wish I had gotten a picture of that!
A small procession passed me by one night on my way home from the grocery store. They were carrying red and green lamps with candles, and then they had an altar of Mary being carried by four men. There were two people banging on what I thought were drums, but on closer inspection I realized they were turtle shells!
Our Christmas tree! It's a cedar branch Bert found in the alley, and some pine needles, spray painted pine cones, and half of the broken doorstop rock! Oh, plus a lovely beaded Santa I bought from Juan on the street! Beautiful, eh?
Willow was not impressed with her holiday outfit. 
Pachi is such a good girl!
Calvin was a bit more trouble, but we finally got a pic!
On Christmas Eve Day, I wore these around town and got quite a few smiles!
I was sooooo sick. Smiling through it all and trying to feel the holiday spirit in 24 degree heat.
One neat Guatemalan Christmas tradition is to scatter pine needles in front of stores. It smelled like home!
Christmas Eve turned out to be the highlight of the holidays! In Guatemala, families stay up until midnight on Xmas Eve and then set off fireworks, eat a special Christmas tamale, have hot chocolate, open any presents they have, then go to bed. Christmas Day itself is kind of anticlimactic and consists of going to church and relaxing.
Click here if you'd like to watch a 9-minute video about a family of Guatemaltecos preparing for Christmas, including making tamales and the traditional ponche (like amazing hot apple cider!). It's filmed in a town very close to where we live!
A last-minute Xmas Eve gathering of "four Canadians and a guy who wishes he was one!" This is according to J.P, who IS Canadian. The non-Canadian at the party was actually the young guy wearing the maple leaf shirt! HA! He's actually from Alaska...close enough. 
My friend, Amazing Iva, invited a few of us up to her "treehouse" for Christmas Eve. Many people declined the invitation due to plans with partners or other friends, but Bert and I went, plus I invited my new friend, Alaska Max, and we unexpectedly ran into J.P. as we were walking over and invited him too! So the five of us climbed the 100 stairs up to Iva's apartment, which is a wooden cottage built on stilts against the side of the mountain. It has the MOST amazing view of the whole city!
And man, was it worth the climb when midnight came around. See for yourself!
This is what caused some of my exuberance in the video, and it definitely caused my ugly hangover on Christmas morning!
It says, "Excessive consumption of this product is detrimental to the health of the consumer." This is on all liquor bottles and signs here. Can't say they didn't warn ya!
Bert, Max, and I walked home together from Iva's at around 1am on Christmas Eve. Max said, "It's like a war zone!" All the firework remains were littering the streets, pieces of paper and tissue and burnt stubs and wrappers, plus drunk guys passed out on the sidewalks.
We found two super long sticks called "Magic Shooters" that said they shot 80 lights! They were already used up, of course, so we pretended they were light sabers and dueled in the empty streets! Max even found a tienda open late and bought a few of those noise-making mini crackers that you light and throw, so we did end up setting off some of own fireworks in the end. :)
This is just a small portion of the debris left over from the fireworks of Xmas Eve.
Bert saw an old man sweeping it all into a pile and then burning it... which then caused some left-over firecrackers to start popping!
I slept in a bit Christmas morning and dragged my hungover/sick/tired butt out of bed to open presents and then Skype with my family.
New coffee mug!New flipper!
Bert bought me amazing expensive chocolates from Sandra's, the import store. This bag of 204g cost about $14.50 Canadian.And I bought him a craving of his... Alfredo sauce! (Plus the rest of the fixings for a nice dinner.)
This jar cost around $9 Canadian. OUCH!
A close up of our beaded Santa ornament. and he's double-sided too!
I also got some amazing and generous presents from my family back home, who were very creative in getting me presents that didn't have to be shipped! (The postal service here can be a bit unreliable.)
I had fantastic video chats on Skype with all of my family, and then Bert called his folks and his brother. 
Then it was time for something I've never done on Christmas Day before... swimming! Iva met us downtown and we walked over to the beach in Jucanya. Oh my! It was way busier than I thought it would be. It was packed with locals. And we were quite literally the only gringos there! 
No matter. We ignored the brazen stares and went swimming anyway. How could we not? Look at this lake! It's heaven.
Christmas Day swimming with Amazing Iva!!  :D
I have to admit, it was a strange Christmas, a bit sad because I miss my family, but still good. Different. Hot. Unexpected and joyous and full of new friends who are each on such interesting paths through life. I'm smiling right now typing this because just looking over these pictures gives me warm fuzzies. I am in love with this mad little town and it's collection of crazies! I'm so glad my own tangled path has led me here. :D

P.S. Pop over to my YouTube channel and check out more videos that I haven't put up here, or rewatch some old ones! 

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