Feliz Navidad? For real?

5 Dec

There’s something about sunshine and warmth that make it feel like the antithesis of Christmas to me. The Christmas season, in my hometown and thus in my mind, is always freezing cold and mostly gray. Not that I like the cold. In fact, pretty much all of the things I associate with Christmas (besides family) are things I dislike. They include: malls; constant assaults of Christmas music; Black Friday, excessive consumerism; overdoses of cookies and candy; ham, turkey, other meat products, and even vegetables cooked with meat (it’s hard on a vegetarian); ridiculous amounts of extra trash due to wrapping paper and such. Call me a Grinch, but other than missing out on family (which, admittedly, is a huge downside), I much prefer to spend Christmas outside of the US, since I manage to “miss out” on most of the things in my list above.

I also associate warmth and sun in December with doing something different for Christmas, once it finally does sink in that it’s Christmas. For example, I spent Christmas in Oaxaca City two years ago. Christmas Eve (when I think most of Latin America celebrates Christmas with family), a family invited me to a nice, relatively simple dinner at their unofficial orphanage. Christmas day, I did a tour of places around Oaxaca City that included a mescal distillery that left me buzzed for the rest of the tour (Mescal is an agave-based drink, similar to tequila, but made only in this area. It’s like how bourbon is a type of whiskey made only in Kentucky.). Despite that, I was the dorky girl taking notes about everything on the tour, which was quite interesting and left me pleased with my day. But it was certainly a day that didn’t feel anything like the family-filled, 3-big-meals-in a-row, presents-galore, Christmas-decoration-overload days that happen at home. Plus I was walking around in a skirt and short sleeves! I reiterate: not like Christmas at home.

My first Christmas away from home I spent in Gran Canaria (an island off the coast of Morocco owned by Spain and dominated by rude English and Irish tourists drunk on excessive sunshine, entitlement, and booze, of course.) My (now ex-) partner and I got a small cactus that we decorated. That was the only celebrating we did, besides surely getting drunk, since that was the ONLY thing to do in that town (okay, there was also cocaine and video games, but sadly I’m not a fan of either of those.) I can’t remember if we had jobs at that point or not, because it wouldn’t have made any real difference in what we did. We worked at a bar that gave you free drinks after your first two hours of work, so I was pretty much drunk the entire time we were there, which was the only thing that made living there tolerable. Well, it was also nice to wear tank tops and skirts every day.

(A little aside: Now that I reflect on it, Gran Canaria has a lot in common with my current home of Juquila, except the tourists here are religious tourists, there is a tiny library- yay-, but there’s no beach, supermarket, or cocaine. I’ll have to ponder the implications of this some more. It’s probably for the best that I can’t drink like I used to!)

My favorite Christmas away from home was spent in what’s surely my favorite country so far- Paraguay. It was the middle of summer and mangos were about to start falling off the trees. I shared a huge family dinner with a lovely family on the outskirts of Asuncion, and afterwards went out on a motorcycle(!!!) with the bachelor uncle in the family. We had beers and chatted on the street, danced at a club, and rode around and around on his motorcycle. Apparently, that is totally normal behavior for Christmas Eve- after the family dinner, it’s young people’s time to go out and party. That’s a Christmas tradition I can really believe in, especially if motorcycles were always involved.

So here in this mostly warm and sunny weather (the rainy season is finally over), I am struggling to remember that it will be Christmas soon, trying to prepare for yet another different Christmas. Except this time, it’ll mean making new traditions with my partner and our daughter. I’m excited about it, even though Lucia won’t remember it. I’m not sure exactly what typical Christmas looks like in this town, but I’m not sure I’m particularly interested anyway. I’ve heard, for example, that it’s typical on Christmas Eve here for women and children to go to mass and for men to go out and get drunk with their friends. Neither of those things will be happening in this household, thank you very much. So we’ll see what kind of celebration happens in our house, what new traditions we invent, and I’ll report back later… If I remember that it’s Christmas, in my skirt and short sleeves.

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