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Dr. Sabelotodo – December

Dear Dr. Sabelotodo, I’m spending Christmas with my host family but I don’t know how to behave or what to expect. Any advice? — John Jacob Jingle Heimer Shmidt

Hey John, you sure picked a great place for your Christmas blog post. Christmas in Guatemala might not be perfect, but it‘s definitely not boring. All the action is at midnight on Christmas Eve, but the buildup starts a couple hours earlier. At ?around 10,? your host family‘s relatives will start to arrive at the house and it will be a downright jolly affair, but you and I both know that you‘re bad at Spanish and that you‘re dreadfully awkward in social situations. Just accept that the lead up to midnight is going to be painful and get the most you can out of it by bringing up interesting conversation topics such as el matrimonio gay, el comunismo, or whether or not Harambe deserved to die. You should also be saying yes every time someone offers you a drink so that you‘re good and drunk by the time the festivities really start. A couple of uncomfortable hours later, you‘ll go outside and watch the celebrations begin. The nano-second Christmas arrives, the people of Xela express their extreme love for Jesus Christ by enveloping the city in a terrifying display of pyrotechnic decadence. Every man, woman, and child shoots off fireworks with reckless abandon; shrapnel falls from the sky; the air smells of gunpowder; street dogs huddle together, saying their ?I love yous? and wishing they had time to say more. It‘s awe-inspiring chaos and it‘s the best ten minutes of the year. After that tremendous display of firepower and a few deep breaths, you‘ll go back inside for Christmas dinner. You should still be tipsy and you shouldn‘t have eaten beforehand so this part is going to be awesome. Guatemalan Christmas dinner is always tamales. There will be savory tamales and sweet tamales, and they‘ll probably all contain prunes presumably due to Guatemala‘s appreciation for both the elderly and explosive diarrhea. Friends and family share tamales so even if your host mom isn‘t a good cook you‘ll still be able to find something delicious Once everyone is done stuffing their faces with cornmeal, there will be a gift exchange, so be sure to have something ready for your host family. It might be hard to know what to get them, but you can‘t go wrong with a simple classic: something like flowers, an ornament, or a fruit cake. When you open your gift, be sure to thank them and sob uncontrollably so they know you love it. Then everyone leaves, and Christmas starts to winds down. The ending is what really makes Guatemalan Christmas great. You‘re probably used to opening gifts, eating a family meal, and then the whole thing just kind of ends with no clear conclusion. You probably spend some time playing with your new fidget spinner or trying to connect with your family, but ultimately nothing fills that deep void and nothing ever will. But, in Guatemala, just as the festivities end and that feeling of existential dread begins to set in, you crawl into bed and pass out into a peaceful drunken abyss. You‘re done. When you wake up on Christmas day, just nurse your hangover and watch reruns of Acapulco Shore as if it were any other day.

Merry Christmas, Xela!

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