December 2005 Issue: Where are All the Reindeer, Mummy?

decemberXmas in Guatemala. Yeah. Rock on. If you’re thinking that all “Christian” countries do this thing the same way, think again. There are some similarities, but things go very sideways at times, too.

You can, for example, rely on the capitalist onslaught on the part of the shopping malls. These guys have no qualms about starting the whole shebang up to two months in advance. Perhaps you have a already noticed an abundance of tinsel, plastic trees and Santa-cap related paraphernalia. We must warn you – this is not all. The specter of Marimba versions of your favorite Christmas Carols is very, very real, people.

The family get together is another big feature, the difference here being that it generally goes down on the night of Christmas Eve.

And from here things tend to get very Guatemalan. Every country seems to have its Christmas food, and in Guatemala that would be the tamale, and plenty of them. Last year I think I downed about ten in one day (that’s right – count ‘em) and this year I’m sure I can do better.

Of course Xmas wouldn’t be anything without a bit of healthy neighborhood competition, and things get very Vegas as each house tries to outdo the next one in how many lights they can string up outside. The electricity company must love this time of year.

Presents don’t seem to be a big part of the deal (either that or my girlfriend’s family doesn’t like me very much) and it appears that the bulk of the cash goes on new clothes and bryllcream to give the little ones that slicked-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives look.

And then of course there’s the fireworks. As with any festive occasion here, a fair chunk of the available income goes on making explosions, starting around 5 am and continuing on through ‘til the early hours.

The pyrotechnic frenzy peaks sometime after dinner, when last year my neighborhood resembled downtown Baghdad (which is, of course, an exaggeration – it was more like suburban Baghdad). This brings us to the other part of the tradition – the December 26 news stories of kids with burnt hands, singed eyeballs, etc.

However you choose to celebrate, have a good one, and we’ll see you in the New Year.

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