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Ho, Ho, Ho!

By Susana Raymundo

Let’s talk this month about Xela’s traditional celebrations during the Christmas holidays. The grand celebrations begin during the second week of November with a parade that defines the term grand spectacle. It has various aspects with nods to both old and new traditions.

It starts with displays promoting various products, bringing the holidays down to their modern materialist spirit. The brands you expect are present in their grand chariots with all the major players including flavorful international sodas, sports drink pushers and local junk food purveyors. Especially prominent during this commercialization is everyone’s favorite Christmas gift: beer.

Of course, this display includes the traditional scantily clad women outfitted in small swatches of strategically-placed, sponsor-branded clothes. Nothing seems to say celebration here like an incongruously large number of blond women and trucks with loudspeakers on top. And then there is Santa Claus giving the traditional “ho, ho, ho”, which may or may not be not directed at anyone in particular. To top things off, the maker’s of “Guatemala’s pride and tradition” also construct the greatest of all trees in Guatemala (or at least the second greatest after Guatemala City) and mount a cock on top.

Another staple of local celebrations are present: the marching band. With thrice weekly practices under their belt and independence day out of the way, they confidently bang out traditional Christmas tunes (in the Columbian cultural exchange between the Old World and the Americas, it has been established that Frosty the Snowman was a local indigenous contribution to modern culture).  And one wouldn’t want to miss the people dressed up as popular modern characters from cartoons and of course that Christmas icon Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid soccer player. Got to get your money’s worth out of those Halloween costumes.

After this grand parade, the giant fake tree is lit and the evening capped off with the most Guatemalan of endings: fireworks. A 20 minute show ends the evening- at a cost that could likely support under-funded health centers for an entire year. But at least they’ve got their priorities straight: people love those bursts of color in the sky. Ho, ho, ho…

(And if you missed seeing the above celebration in person; then don’t worry you have another chance to see a grand fireworks display when our favorite fried chicken chain puts on a display of lights on December 3.)

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