so my friend emailed me a few days ago asking how they celebrate Christmas here. i was about to write a simple "the same as in Seattle" back but then i thought about it. in cuenca and many parts of South and Central America, Christmas is more of a religious holiday that anything else. its about the birth of Jesus, or "el nacimiento" in Spanish. its more about praying, and communicating with god your thanks and your gratitude. i have never been in a central or south American country for Christmas, so i cant really say that much on how it goes. today, was the 24th, and we saw this magnificent parade in the central square called Paseo Del Niño with every one dressed up as angels and mini Jesus. it was so hot out but that didn't matter to them. they were just happily sitting in their costumes, wanting everyone and anyone to take a picture of them. i get the feeling that the parents are just as proud as the kids with the parade, and i can see why. my parents told me that this was the pride and joy of everyone in cuenca.
anyway, right now it is I'm getting ready for dinner, at 8:30, (I'm turning into grandpa!!!!!) :) and my parents/friends tell me that this is the plan:
-hang out and talk until 9 or so
-open secret Santa gifts at 9:30
-eat at 10
-set off fireworks at 11
-and pray at midnight
my only question is, how do they expect us to stay up until midnight?!
last night we actually did it. i am exhausted. the plan went as planed. we had turkey, ham, and potato salad for dinner, which turned out to be traditional even though it sounds like an all American dinner with out any pie. our host family had a cute little tree (even though it was fake), and a nativity scene that was finally completed on that day by putting in the baby Jesus (you wait to put him in until he is born). our host family and many others have been doing "novenas" for the nine days leading up to Christmas. basically you get together every day until Christmas counting down and doing little prayers, sayings and singing as well. last night was the last one and it was "hermoso". wonderful. every kid and adult had to say something to Jesus, young and old. even the 2 year old asked Jesus to help all the kids in the hospital and make them not sick any more. when it was time for the secret Santa exchange, we had a little surprise. Santa came and visited!! he gave presents to all the kids from his big sack and explained that he couldn't come down the chimney because he didn't want to destroy the nativity scene that was set up in the chimney. between the presents, the praying, the food and the singing, i think that might have been one one of my favorite Christmas eves ever.