Initially, I thought that saving my blog update until after both Christmas and New Year’s was a great idea. I now regret that decision. So grab yourself a glass of chicha, a plate of ceviche, maybe some paneton and tuck yourself in for a long one…
Our Christmas celebration started the morning of the 24th as I innocently went downtown to buy my gift for my amigo secreto (secret Santa). What was meant to be a simple shopping trip ended with us purchasing our Christmas turkey. Eleven kilos, white, fluffy and squawking, my host mom decided he looked delicious. There is a joke here that on Christmas eve day, as you are getting ready to kill your Christmas turkey, you give the poor thing a shot of pisco to help ease the pain and make it easier to wrestle with the turkey. As the turkey drinks the pisco, so does the butcher. This continues all day until by the end of the afternoon, the butcher and turkey are stumbling around together and the butcher will not kill his new friend. I did not see our poor turkey drink any pisco, but he was a fighter; it took three Peruvians to hold down our soon-to-be Christmas feast. Very appropriately, the word Peruvians use for killing a turkey is pelear or ‘to fight’. We walked away with our turkey in a large blue plastic bag and continued on to our Christmas shopping. Christmas Eve is called ‘La Noche Buena’ which I find charming and simple. I was introduced to many new Christmas carols, my favorite being ‘Cholito Jesus’ in which we sing that we believe Jesus was born in Peru. I have to say, with the parties they throw here, I can hardly blame Him. In the same song, Joseph was brought a charango and both him and Mary drank chicha. A version of the entire song can be found here. I was practically bursting as I waited to wish everyone a Feliz Navidad until after mass. Christmas here is about family. Gifts are minimal and the focus is on spending time with loved ones over good food, drink and lots of laughter. At about 10 minutes to midnight, the festivities really began. Baby Jesus was removed from his box, sung to and passed from person to person to hear our wishes for the coming year. Midnight, on the dot, he was placed in the nativity and there was an eruption of ‘Feliz Navidad!’ from the family. There were big Christmas hugs for everyone before we sat down to eat our Christmas dinner. The table was filled with our giant turkey, paneton (there were six panetones eaten over the course of two days), candy, bread, potatoes, champagne and hot chocolate. By Peruvian standards, our Christmas Eve was relatively tame. Following dinner was the gift exchange and we were all in bed by the decent hour of 4am. It was wonderful.
Christmas day in the Daly household is traditionally spent lounging around in pajamas, eating too much candy and playing games. While there were no games played here in Chimbote, we did laze around in pajamas all day, ate a lot of candy and watched some Christmas movies.
Last night, we rang in 2011 in style. If everyone celebrated New Year’s Eve like Peruvians, it would easily be my favorite holiday. There are many different traditions down here for New Year’s. Firstly, the color yellow is believed to bring good luck. This means that there was yellow everywhere! From flowers to underpants, the streets were covered in yellow things for sale. Once armed with yellow underpants, you are at least minimally ready to welcome the new year. With yellow balloons and garlands hanging from the ceiling, we sat down for dinner at 11:00. At the strike of midnight, we each ate twelve grapes and made twelve wishes and then quickly ran outside. To help receive the new year, Peruvians burn dolls (muñecas). These dolls are made from old clothes and stuffed with hay, paper, firecrackers and all the bad from the previous year. At the stroke of midnight, they are lit on fire in the middle of the street. On my block alone, there were three muñecas. Looking down the street in either direction you could see a line of flaming dolls. Once the dolls had mostly finished burning, we grabbed our luggage and headed out the door. Taking a trip around the block with your baggage brings you good travels for the coming year. As we hugged and wished the neighbors ‘Feliz Año’ they asked us where we were going, to which the response was ‘Viajando! (Travelling!)’. After our trip around the block, the neighbors were getting their party started with a visit from Woody (from Toy Story) and Jerry (as in ‘Tom and Jerry’). The music and dancing began and a good time was had by all. I hit the hay at the respectable hour of 5:00 after yet another great Peruvian party.
Here’s wishing my baby brother a belated Happy 21st Birthday! Welcome to the big kids’ club.
A huge congratulations to my childhood friend Stephenie and her new husband, Jim. While you were saying your ‘I do’s’, we were celebrating down here with you!
Wishing everyone all the best for the coming year! Feliz Año!