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Here we are, two days before Christmas 2004. It's certainly been an interesting year. I guess I only need to mention a couple of things: US Elections and Bolivian Referendum.
However, the end of this year has come. I think 2004 itself, is happy about it. It is time for the new year, 2005. It comes with lots of responsibilities and lots, but lots of expectations. I wish you all, a happy Christmas with your loved ones and the best for the New Year.
This will probably be the last post for the year. As you know well, it's a busy time and thus there is little opportunity to make long posts. Although, I will try to update between Christmas and New Year, it will be a little hard to do it because I will be most likely trying to have a happy Christmas and spending it more with my family and friends.
This time of year, takes me inevitably back to my fondest memories in the Christmas season. The whole Christmas feeling lingers around involving me until I am completely intoxicated with it. This year it certainly has been specially intoxicating because in the city where I live, Hamburg, Germany, they are very good at creating this atmosphere. One cannot help of getting in the mood when walking through the city. The Christmas lights adorning the streets, all the Christmas markets (there are at least four in the center of the city), the smell of the food vendors, all the stores with their Christmas motives and decorations and also, everywhere you walk, there is Christmas music playing. Not to mention, the wether is just the right one for Christmas. I tell you, it is difficult, even if you would want to, not to get in the Christmas mood.
But it is about another place's Christmas season that I want to tell you about. While remembering my best experiences in Christmas, I like to remember my Bolivian Christmas. There, in some aspects, is similar to what I am experiencing here. For example, as in Hamburg, Christmas fully starts around the first of December. This is when the first Advent is celebrated. The Advent time is the time before Christmas and, for more religious folks, is when the people start waiting for the coming of Christ. Although, this year it started end of November. In Bolivia, this thing about advent was not well known, although in my family we did celebrate it.
Nonetheless, all the stores start putting up their Christmas decorations and playing some Christmas music. So the streets start taking this Christmasy look. In additions to the music from the stores, I could enjoy the Christmas Villancicos. That is groups of small kids walk through the streets playing and singing Crhistmas songs. The instruments they mainly use are Harmonicas, pipes and an instrument they make themselves out of bottle caps. What I used to do, when I lived there, was to often go out into the center of the city (La Paz) and just walked around in search of that oh so special Christmas gift. The streets filled with busy merchants, street vendors and shoppers, all walking around in search of that elusive Christmas gift. As the 24th approached, one started to see more and more people around and the streets filling more and more. Closer to Christmas eve, the streets were so full, one could not walk on the sidewalk anymore. Also, the fact that the street vendors took almost half of the sidewalk, did not help.
I would say, about two weeks into Christmas, there is a full festive feeling. All the commercial part of the city (the center), is lit and the stores as well as the streets are full.
In Bolivia, we traditionally celebrate Christmas Eve. We believe Jesus Christ is born exactly at twelve at night in the eve of the 24th. So all the preparations are for this time. Christmas eve started for my family and me, early on. Well, more for my mom that for any of us. All had to be ready around 10 pm. All the candles lit, all the presents arranged at the foot of the 2 m high Christmas tree, the table set, and the food ready. Usually, my dad arrived after work at around 6 pm, and that was the cue, that the evening had begun.
Actually, all we did was wait......and wait......and wait......and wait. Until, finally Jesus was born and we could get on with the celebration. Right after twelve, we all wished each other merry Christmas and we toasted to peace and love. Then, we all got to open the presents. That was usually the best part of the evening, specially for me. I had been waiting for that moment for a long time.
Another highlight of the night was the dinner. At home, my mom prepared THE most delicious Picana. That's a dish made like a soup (fricase) which contained red meat, chicken and pork. It also had pieces of maiz, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, raisins, some red wine and other ingredients that I don't remember. How could I, I just ate it. I let my mom do the cooking. She was a master at it.
We stayed up late that night. The grown ups talking and the kids (that was me) playing with the new gifts.
The next day, we all got up a little late. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, which consisted on warming up the rest of the Picana. Somehow, it seemed to all of us that the next day the Picana tasted even better. After lunch, or many times for lunch, we had family visits.
So, that was Christmas for me (in a short version) in Bolivia. Enjoy yours and once again, Merry Christmas!