As we sat teary eyed at our kitchen table we had to think hard about what Christmas is all about. You see it started a few weeks before Christmas, actually right after Thanksgiving. You need to understand that Christmas down here in El Maizal is different. I mean DIFFERENT.
Let’s back up, the paragraph above was how the blog was started about 2 weeks ago. At that time we were at the depths of homesickness and sadness. We felt that there was literally nothing that reminded us of Christmas. For instance,
· The weather is totally different; the beginning of winter is the beginning of Christmas. In our new country it’s sunny and warm every day. We haven’t had a drop of rain in over a month.
· As much as we believe the commercialism of Christmas is a terrible thing , it used to serve a purpose for us. It reminded us what the season was and it’s hard not to feel the excitement of the season. On TV here we noticed very few commercials that reminded you it was Christmas
· We couldn’t find a radio station here that played non-stop Christmas music and Carols.
· We didn’t see many Christmas TV shows or movies that were a tradition of home. Miracle on 34th Street, Rudolph, The Grinch, Elf or my personal favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life
· Christmas lights in the local towns and communities are far and few between
· Even Church is different. We didn’t have Advent Music. At home the Church is busy with the Living Gift Market and all the different Mission drives to help people during Christmas.
· There wasn’t a Christmas Party to attend every week starting right after Thanksgiving. The evenings of laughing, sharing stories, eating and drinking didn’t happen for us.
· We didn’t buy our Christmas tree with our Granddaughter who lives with us, for the 1st time.
· We didn’t experience our many family holiday traditions that we took for granted till we didn’t do them
Up to now we did a great job of getting accustomed to our new life. Of course we missed family, friends and all the major events and holiday back home but this was different. By themselves the smaller events at home like family parties on holidays and even birthdays didn’t have the impact of missing Christmas. The list above is all traditions (it’s really just the tip of the iceberg on family traditions) that aren’t just a part of our previous culture it was all part of our lives. Missing all these things overwhelmed us like the incoming tide. It was very subtle but slowly but surely the homesickness had us over our heads and we didn’t see the tide rising. Could we have maintained some traditions? Possibly but traditions without friends and family are just hollow formalities, they don’t replace the feelings of love that sometimes can only be generated by those whom you’ve shared the traditions with for many years.
Well we cried 1st and missed home but then we reached out to our Mission team, Dick, Julie, MaryAnn, Rich, Lori, Dianne and a few others ( They mean more to us than they realize). We had to share for the 1st time in our Mission that we were really hurting inside. One thing we learned was that in Mission you need to be ready to ask and receive help, not just answer the call to help others. With our Mission team’s thoughtful and kind words we started to regroup. We forgot that Advent is a time of waiting, the world waited for God’s Son to help redeem us of our sins. A week after our mini meltdown our waiting for God’s help was answered.
Starting on Dec 23rd we had a solid week of the Christmas, not exactly as our list but of what the list represents family, love and tradition. On the 23rd, 24th and 26th we had events at our local Churches in Divina Providencia (El Maizal), San Pedro y San Pablo (Positos) and La Virgen deGuadalupe. Each event started with a service, after which we had piñatas and the surprise conclusion was me being in a Full Santa suit. Dianne and I handed out gifts to all the children and older teen and young adult. Dianne also served as the photographer. The excitement was electric in the air, the children’s smiles and laughs were priceless and of course there was the children scared of Santa but that’s tradition too.
In El Maizal a local family made Chuco and shared it with the community at the family event in our community. Chuco is a slightly sour drink made from black corn (slightly rotten) and water that’s served in a cup, a scoop of beans in the cup is next then on top a slightly greenish sauce is put on and you eat it with a piece of bread. It’s a tradition of only El Salvador.
On Christmas Eve (Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve in El Salvador, not Christmas Day) we were invited to have dinner with our friends Elyseo y Claudia and Padre Mario also joined us. We had a traditional meal of roasted Chicken, rice, ensalada (salad), tortilla and bread (Chicken tomales are also a very common meal on Christmas Eve. After the meal we sat and listened to everyone chat (we understood a little). We excused ourselves as we also visited other friends. One of the interesting footnotes to this Holiday is that fireworks are a prominent way to celebrate. All night long you hear fireworks building till the crescendo of Midnight.
We returned home before midnight to our humble casa. We have a small wreath and lights set up on one of our outside windows and we had a Christmas tree. We waited till midnight; we even had a couple of rum and cokes and enjoyed the fireworks at midnight celebrating the birth of our Savior.
I know the blog was kind of rambling, the thoughts got mixed and scrambled but that was the type of Christmas it was for us. Our Christmas ended well. We learned that waiting is the key. There are times we all will be hurting but God is there, sometimes we just have to wait till we can see and hear Him clearly, He’s always there but we just aren’t ready. We also learned new traditions and maybe leaning too hard on the past traditions to make you happy, you miss the things happening in the present that can create just as much alegria (happiness). Finally, maybe we need to just remember that all these different traditions during this season are wonderful gifts from God but that the greatest gift was simply the birth of a child whom is our savior. Believe that, live that and the happiness and love He brings will always be there to help us all.