The Northern Coast

The Northern Coast
The Northern Coast--photo by Zack Thieman

Monday, December 24, 2012

Llegó noche buena

Merry Christmas Eve!

I haven't posted in awhile because my computer has passed on to the other side. It just wouldn't turn on one day with full battery charged. Yep. It's gone. So I've been having to borrow my host family's computer, which means sharing with my host mom and three younger host siblings, two of which are equally as addicted to facebook and youtube as any teenager back home. However, it's been a very nice, freeing experience. I've spent more time writing in my journal, reading, hanging out with the host family, making's been very nice. I'm actually considering not getting internet again once my computer is fixed....

...which will be when I get to see Justin! A group of us friends are heading to Ecuador Christmas day and Justin is flying in to Quito to meet up with us! It's going to be so great! We're taking a night bus over the Ecuador border, and my friends and I are already preparing to make the bus ride as Christmas-y as possible, with Christmas snacks and Christmas movies. Super happy to have some regular Christmas cheer added into this holiday!

This is my second Christmas away from home ever in my life, and Christmas in Peru can be tough for volunteers. It is very warm here right now (I'm wearing a sun dress and still a little warmer than I'd like to be), and Peruvian tradition puts more focus on Christmas Eve, la noche buena, specifically midnight on Christmas Eve.

On the day of the 24th early in the morning preparations for dinner are being made, which won't be eaten until midnight. The whole family stays up (maybe snacking a little) and just before midnight the table is set with all of the traditional food and drink-- turkey, paneton, empanadas, canned peaches, and hot chocolate and wine. The whole family gathers around in anticipation for the clock to strike midnight, and just as it does a designated person in the family places the baby Jesus in the manger of the family nativity scene (every family has at least a small nativity set) and says a prayer, and everyone hugs and says, ¨feliz navidad.¨. Then everyone raises their glass of wine in a toast and dinner commences. After dinner, everyone heads out into the street and to the plaza to say Merry Christmas to friends and neighbors.
Front of my host family's house

Me with the high school 3rd grade girls and the tree we decorated  for a competition. I mostly just put ornaments in high places.
Honestly, I love  the tradition of going out in the middle of the night to the plaza, all of the trees decorated and Christmas music playing, and just walking around saying , ¨¡Feliz navidad!¨ However, I think what makes Christmas difficult is that there is little anticipation leading up to it, and it's pretty anticlimactic. My host family went all out decorating the front of the house this year, but Christmas music isn't played (and to be honest, I'm okay with that. Spanish Christmas music is not my favorite), Christmas movies aren't watched, and Christmas day no one days anything except sleep in. I mean, sure, there are a hundred chocolatadas (hot chocolate and paneton parties for small children, usually with a present involved) but I hardly feel in the spirit while sucking down hot chocolate under the baking sun and watching girls dance around in little Santa outfits that are usually designated to the ¨Slutty Santa¨ section of the Halloween costume area back home. Those are usually more of a headache then they are cheerful.
High school 4th grade boys singing a villancico, or Christmas carrol.

Mothers preparing chicken and hot chocolate for the high school chocolatada
There's just something about being back home in the cold of winter, everyone seeking warmth indoors and sharing in food, drink, and merriment winding up to the big day. When I'm here it just feels like any other day, and while I'm listening to Christmas music in my room and the words of, ¨Baby it's cold outside,¨ are being crooned out of the stereo, I'm wearing shorts and a tank top and have never felt so far away from that sentiment.

Christmas away from home is hard, but I'm happy that I have a host family that has taken me in as one of their own and other volunteers who have become great supportive friends and shared the journey with me. While I may be missing all of my family, friends, and traditions of Christmas back home, the sentiment of love, sharing, and goodwill to others is not lost.

So to all of my family and friends back home, Felíz navidad y prospero año! I hope you are near loved ones and sharing in the spirit of Christmas, and know that I am carrying you all in my heart.


  1. at my final chocolatada of the year, there were 50 kids and adults sitting in the mother effing sun and i am sweating like a mofo having had to run around from literally one end of my site to the other, grabbing materials, etc... and then i was offered a piping hot cup of hot chocolate. i don't think i could even attempt to smile. i passed it off to the kid next to me, stood up and kept moving until i dodged all the chocolate and panettones... i was later offered a warm glass of soda. i told everyone i had to go.

  2. ~Amanda Marie~
    Christmas was the same for me last year as it was for you. I have to say it is very different having Christmas in hot muggy weather. It was really nice to share it with the person I love. Christmas this yeah was a blast too. There was less emphasis on Christmas and more on new years. I grew up in a place where there was snow outside during Christmas. I understand the nostalgia you speak of, huddled around the wood stove, watching a Christmas movie, drinking hot coco, and bundling up to go outside and sled.
    The funny thing is, next Christmas when you return home you will be missing your desert Christmas in Peru. Thanks for the Christmas cheer and love. I hope your Christmas was as good as mine.