Okay, I know I’m a little late on this, but it’s hard to write about something you haven’t experienced yet. So now, I can tell you a little bit about Navidad in Honduras.
When we came here, we weren’t sure whether Hondurans really even celebrated Christmas. Those questions were quickly cleared up when decorations started appearing by the end of October! (With no Halloween or Thanksgiving to market, retailers are quick to get in the Christmas spirit.) Yes, they have Christmas trees (fake, of course), lots of tinsel and glitter, lights, Santas (who are fluent in Spanish!), red hats, and American Christmas music (I had to smile when I heard “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” in the “supermarket.” Dream on….).
The Mission here has chosen not to recognize Navidad, because the cultural emphasis is so pagan. I never saw a nativity or any other indication that this was a celebration of Christ’s birth (although the children say they saw some). We were okay with that stand, because we were having a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit anyway (No snow or even cold, no tree or decorations, no carols or “walk through Bethlehem”, far away from family and friends…. You get the picture?). As I shared in a previous blog, we had already given each other the gift of a beach vacation, so there were not even any surprises in the house! Oh well, we figured we could at least see how Hondurans celebrated the holiday.
Kirsten and I went to town on the 22nd to do some food shopping and e-mailing. When I went to the “supermarket”, I almost thought for a minute that I was back in the States. There were crowds and lines everywhere! The two main items that people seemed to be purchasing were soda and beer! I saw numerous pickup trucks with the backs full of beer and other drinks. The other hot item for purchase was fireworks. Clearly this was going to be party time! We began bracing ourselves for a long weekend with short nights.
Now, just a word about the firecrackers here: Yes, they have small ones like we have in the States, but they also have BIG ones that they call “La Bombas”. To say that they sound like a shotgun blast, is not going far enough. It’s not a “pop” or a “Bang”, it’s a “KA-BOOOOOM!!!” The blast shatters the peace of the village and reverberates from one mountain peak to the next. Let me just say that to have one go off unexpectedly is an unnerving experience! Back on the farm, our dogs go crazy when the boys shoot off bottle rockets. Well, maybe the reason these La Bombas aren’t allowed in the States is because all the dogs would be dying of heart attacks! (Come to think of it, maybe that’s part of the reason why all the dogs here are so skinny and bedraggled - maybe it’s nerves!). Seriously though, I am surprised there are not more people with missing body parts from these things (we’ve been told that some of them are equivalent to ½ stick of dynamite)!
So, we waited, steeling ourselves for whatever lay ahead. Some had told us that they actually celebrate Navidad on the 24th, so we weren’t sure when the party was to begin. Those with La Bombas didn’t even wait till the 24th. They were going off all hours of the day and night. There seemed to be no official beginning or ending. The explosions, Honduran music, and sounds of partying gradually crescendoed through Friday and Friday night, then died back on Sabbath morning (thankfully), and then rose again to a climax Saturday night. Our children had a peaceful sleep (La Bombas and all). Pam and I jolted in and out until about 2:30 am when the drunks up the road sang their last song and collapsed. Sunday, the partying continued for those still conscious. Since then, La Bombas have become more infrequent, and people are slowly returning to “life” - although we are bracing ourselves for another round this weekend (we’ve heard New Years can get pretty rowdy too).
Despite our lack of Christmas spirit, the family did work together to create a wonderful Christmas dinner (with many thanks to Grandma, Mema, and Aunt Jennifer!). We had homemade gluten steaks, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry, green beans, a wonderful salad, and to top it all off, an amazing pumpkin pie! There was also date roll, dried apricots, pecans, walnuts, and almonds. For an hour or two it actually felt (or I should say, “tasted”) like Christmas
Yes, it was definitely a cultural experience, but we’re kind of looking forward to another “tender Tennessee Christmas” next year. Somehow this revelry doesn’t fit with our picture of a babe lying in a manger in Bethlehem.
We trust that your holidays were more peaceful than ours!
PS The only “gifts” given were on Friday night (while we were at church) when a thief broke through our window screen and grabbed a pair of Nikon binoculars sitting on the windowsill. Praise the Lord we seem to have caught him in the act, because he had also taken a couple pairs of shoes and a machete - which were dropped as he fled across the yard. This was our second experience with petty thievery. The first time we lost two pair of shoes.