What do you do when you are abroad for the Holidays? Here´s what I did….
Making Kids Smile. On both the 23rd and the 24th, I contributed (first with my coworkers and then with my church) to buying small presents, candies, cookies, juices and then handing them out on Bélen Pampa and in San Blas. The idea is that whole families from surrounding villages always to Cusco over Christmas to sell pine branches, moss, and other greenery to make the Nativity sets. They sleep on the street or plaza with their kids in the freezing cold and rain. Kids with mild frostbite and mud on their cheeks.
I remember Christmas when I was 5 years old. And thought that maybe, somehow, if I could give these kids a little of the joy that I have had over the holidays, it could make theirs a little brighter. But, in the end, you never know. Countless kids left without presents, making the two days of handing out presents seem like a drop in the bucket.
Arariwa Christmas Party. The 23rd, all the workers from all branches of Arariwa got together for a night of food, drink, and a lot of dancing. The party was held over at Arariwa Promoción, and within the first ten minutes, I realization that I was out of my league as far as the dancing was concerned. Men would line up to dance with the women and begin flailing their arms and rapidly stomping their feet. It was a mix between off-beat salsa and a traditional campensino dance. All in all, a fun night!
Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, I didn´t bring my camera to Christmas Eve or Day, but hopefully some friends will post pictures on Facebook soon! Christmas Eve is characterized by waiting up till midnight here in Peru, to 1) put baby Jesus in the Nativity 2) to pray and toast minature glasses of champagne 3) to light off fireworks from the roof 4) to eat a small meal, have hot chocolate and paneton (pretty sure it is more directly translated fruitcake). I got to join a coworker, Andy, and her family that night.
Christmas. I spent the morning with some American missionaires eating brunch and watching Elf, and then the afternoon (after it rained) with Andy´s family eating turkey and drinking wine until the early evening where I crashed in my house for a good 12 hour Christmas sleep.
Tradition. Good Catholics bring baby Jesus to mass on the 26th and place him on the altar for the entire service. And in Cusco, you visit at least seven Nativity scenes in churches across the city tossing coins in the wishing wells in each of the Nativities for good luck in the new year. 5 down (Plaza de Armas, Cathedral, San Francisco, La Merced, and Santo Domingo), 2 to go!