Christmas in Copan – Feliz Navidad

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the town,
Tamales were served to everyone around.
The Church in park central was aglow by the moon,
An auspicious sign to mark a birthday real soon.

The smell of fresh pine filled the air,
As needles were spread by hand with care.
The streets were filled with happiness,
Donning cowboy hats and Mayan dress.

No blankets were needed as we lay in our beds,
While visions of our mother’s baked goods flashed in our heads.
When out on the street there arose such a clatter,
It was time to celebrate so noise didn’t matter.

There was no shopping, no Santa or a nose that glowed,
No caroling, hot chocolate or shoveling snow.
But the fireworks exploded with sonic booms and light,
Saying Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Dear Asher,

This morning we enjoyed some fluffy pancakes topped with nutella and strawberry jam, washed down with tall glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. Normally this is far too decadent for breakfast, but we wanted to start our first family Christmas tradition. After eating oatmeal 95% of the time, the pancakes were such a special treat. With a mouthful of goodness, your mother closed her eyes and inhaled slowly through the nose, the universal sign for pure culinary pleasure, and we decided then that this would be our first Christmas tradition.

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Today we spent most of the day skyping home to talk to our family. They were all very excited to see you and it was nice to catch up with everyone. We ducked out for a bit to catch the 10am mass at the Catholic church in central park and we stood near the back with all of the other families who had young children. It was breastfeeding central at the back of the church and it was great being with all of the adorable kids who were nicely dressed for Christmas mass. We were hoping to join in with some of the music but we did not recognize any of the songs and we got the gist of the homily as una persona was repeated over and over. As we exited, the old ladies shook your bare legs goodbye and wished us a feliz navidad. After mass, the park filled up and the little ice cream carts worked ferociously to serve everyone a special post-mass Christmas treat. For most of these little cuties, the $0.50 mini ice cream would be the extent of their gifts this Christmas and we wondered if the kids back home really understand how lucky they are.

While Canadians spent an average of $800 each on Christmas, we celebrated the same day in a country where 60% of the people live below the poverty line and 30% of the population lives on less than $3 per day (in the market $3 will buy you enough food to make one vegetarian meal for a family of four). Asher, when riding the chicken buses, it is not uncommon to see young children with calloused hands and dirt all over their faces from having spent the day working in the coffee fields and peddling homemade goods to add to the household income. We experienced the same tension when celebrating Christmas in India, knowing children back home are scraping full plates of food into the source where many impoverished Indian children find their meal. Surely the luck of one’s birthplace should not have such an enormous impact on access to basic needs. And in the extravagance of the holiday season, there is certainly more we can do to share the benefits and burdens of modern society. Asher, as you grow up, we hope you will realize your privilege, be grateful for all that you have, and help others meet their basic needs.

Our dinner was more simple than breakfast but we enjoyed it nonetheless on the terrace of Hotel Don Moises and as the sun set into the mountains, we expressed gratitude for our simple Christmas meals and the precious gift of quality family time.

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One thought on “Christmas in Copan – Feliz Navidad

  1. Feliz Navidad to you Asher! Thinking about you and how wonderful it is watching you love! Stopping to think about all I have and I am so grateful. I was very fortunate to be born in Canada and have lacked nothing. I can say that all the material presents are given with love but it the giver who is the gift! May you always know the love of your family and friends who are the true Christmas presents! Hugs to everyone.

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