Christmas time is upon us once again, providing us with the perfect opportunity to forget about those silly middle-of-year fads such as dieting, exercising more, drinking less and going to bed early. Those were so November.
Indeed, if there´s one thing in common between all of the diverse traditions for celebrating Christmas across the globe, it’s that they all give us a chance to splurge. Around the world mountains of food ranging from turkey, ham, meatballs, fish soup and curried goat to mince pies, cookies, fruitcakes and yule logs are washed down with the likes of bucks fizz, eggnog, mulled wine, cider and Christmas beer.Guatemala is no different and here Christmas food and drink takes a centre stage over the holidays. Guatemalans are already salivating over the prospect of eating the famous tamales navideños. So if you´re planning on spending Christmas here in Guate – make sure you eat at least two dozen (we recommend the chocolate ones).
And up for drinks there is the ponche navideño to look forward to – a drink so delicious we just had to include it as our Recipe of the Month, courtesy of Simone Riddle. So now you have no excuses for not popping to the market, stocking up on ingredients, buying a few bottles of rum and tequila and making a gallon or two of punch for your own Christmas posada. Just don´t forget to invite us. We like punch.
Sadly, you won´t find any real Christmas trees here in Guatemala due the heavy nationwide restrictions on the sale of evergreen trees.
Still there´s lots of fake ones to be bought should you feel the need to get down to some serious tree decorating. However, we must warn that this activity will require you to go the Christmas decorations part of the market and suffer the insanity-inducing, brain-meltingly horrendous racket of hundreds of Christmas lights playing their 4-bit versions of Christmas songs at the same time. Guantanamo Bay take note – this noise would be a far superior instrument of torture to Sesame Street songs.
But if you´re itching to see a truly spectacular Christmas tree in order to get you into the Christmas spirit then head on down to Templo de Minerva to marvel at the spectacle that is the largest (fake) tree in Department. It stands at over 40 metres high and is adorned with nearly 20,000 Christmas lights. And the best part: atop the tree, in place of the traditional angel, sits Guatemala´s most famous and proliferous animal: the Gallo rooster.
The biggest day for Christmas celebrations here is Nochebuena (Christmas eve), when the tamales and ponche are served in all their glory. However, if you´re one of those people who likes to go to bed early on Christmas eve so you can wake up extra-early and open all your presents / get cracking on the eggnog, then you will be in for a rude awakening if you try to do so here. At midnight what sounds like the beginning of World War III starts as every person in the city and his mum goes out into the streets to set off firecrackers.
But whatever you plan to do for this year´s Christmas celebrations, you can be sure that it will be filled with lots of eating and drinking. So here’s to putting on a few extra pounds over the holidays, under the false pretence that we will definitely get back in shape by going on a diet or frequenting the gym come the New Year. Of 2016.