I’m typically not a huge fan of Christmas. I often find it more focused on materialism than the family time and spiritual reflection I would prefer. However, my first Guatemalan Christmas gave me a new perspective and perhaps a newfound love for the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Starting on December 16th, Guatemalan families begin their posadas (Spanish for “lodging”). Every night until Christmas Eve the families walk together with homemade lanterns from house to house, representing the journey of Mary and Joseph to find a place to stay before the birth of Jesus.
For us, we walked the mile long stretch of road between the Cardenas’ house and the house of their 93-year-old grandfather. The children took turns carrying a large nativity set and playing drums on turtle shells while everyone sang Spanish Christmas songs. Once we arrived, we stood outside the grandfather’s house and sang a song asking if there was room in the inn for us to stay. The family at the house replied with a song welcoming us to stay in their stable. Afterwards, we all said prayers together and ate delicious tamales like a big, happy family.
Then, on Christmas Eve we woke up early and went to a giant breakfast together at a traditional Guatemalan restaurant. The remainder of the day was spent relaxing until 11pm when the champagne came out and the festivities started in full force! I’ve decided that Christmas here is like our Thanksgiving, 4th of July, and New Year’s celebrations all mixed together. Before midnight everyone goes around the table saying what they are thankful for from the past year, then when the clock strikes 12, all the presents are opened in a flurry of excitement, “Christmas hugs” are given to everyone, and the fireworks begin!
My first Navidad taught me that a meaningful Christmas truly is possible even in this day of iPads, Christmas light competitions, and Black Friday. All we have to do is take the time as a community to remember the importance of Christ’s birth, and remember as well the importance of the individuals that we share our lives with. It’s not complicated; it just requires a conscious effort.
Merry belated Christmas from Monterrico & Happy New Year’s from Atitlán!