So much like the USA and around the world, Christmas has come and gone. And while it definitely wasn’t the same as passing Christmas with the family (including missing the annual cousin’s breakfast and gift exchange), it did pass bonita y linda for sure. The days leading up to Christmas, people put up decorations to various degrees. Some had lights in the windows, with others had garland hanging around their house. Most houses had small artificial trees, but every house had their version of the manger scene. Usually it’s multi-level and filled with a wide variety of plastic animals that may or may not have been hanging around the manger roughly 2030 years ago. The town square had a small manger scene similar to one that you might find in front of a church in the states.
So how do you celebrate Christmas in these parts? Well, Christmas Eve, everyone works regularly until around noon or so. And the big hullaballoo happens at midnight, where families gather in their houses and toast to health and love and a happy Christmas. Then out comes the paneton (think fruitcake, except everyone loves it here) and hot chocolate. After that is turkey, chicken and whatever else the family has prepared is served and enjoyed. Then usually the family will stay up partying and talking until the early morning. I stayed up with the family until around 5am on Xmas eve, now knowing what to expect the next day.
So I wake up around 11am on Christmas Day, and most of the family is up at the farm preparing lunch. I have a cup of coffee, shower and walk on up to the farm saying Merry Christmas to friends in the community. I show up, and more family had shown up for Christmas Day and had already started eating Ceviche and cracking open some beers. Wanting the full cultural experience, I dived into both. Next up was the chicken, rice and Peruvian potato salad (potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas with mayo). And we just sat around and ate like any normal day really. The men got hammered while the women sat around, talked and did all the work. I didn’t get hammered that day as I just wasn’t feeling it…that and I just couldn’t bring myself to bring more of the same beer I had been drinking since I arrived last month. If anyone wants to send me some Great Lakes Christmas Ale, that would be fantastic!
Christmas Day was different as it was kind of quiet, but also passed like any other day for the most part. The big show is the midnight meal, and the party that follows after it (whether it’s in the community or your house). The other very different part is that gifts are only given to the children, which took a lot of pressure off of Christmas here. Although, I did receive a gift from my good Peruvian friend…he got my a Lima Alianza soccer jersey, which is really cool.
While I wouldn’t call it the best Christmas ever, it was really nice to pass it with all of the (Peruvian) family and in a different way. I really liked the midnight dinner and the celebration that ensued afterwards, but having Christmas Day being more or less a normal day was weird for me.