Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve

I’m just back from a lovely walk to pick up some bananas and fresh pineapples.  (Did I tell you’ve I’ve found the secret to picking the perfect pina?  I ask the people who run Mia Fruta to pick it out for me!  All my sniffing and checking the color and pulling on leaves cannot compare to the ones they pick simply by looking at them!)

Muddy roads make 'Dashing' a bit more like 'Slogging'!
I took pictures as I went, and thought I’d share some of them, plus a few tidbits about my first Christmas-time here in Jarabacoa.
Christmas Music:  This morning my favorite Jarabacoa radio station played four versions of Jingle Bells in a row.  All in English.  Well, except for the Dog-Barking version.  Of course, the pure genius of that rendition truly transcends all language barriers!

No sleigh, but these horses have their feathered friend!
 “Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh, o’er the fields we go, laughing all the way…”  Snow – Nope.  Open sleigh – No.  But the horse, fields, and laughing, yeah, we’ve got all of those! 

It’s rather jarring to go from announcers talking in Spanish to songs about snow and sleighs in English.  But, it pretty well sums up how I’m feeling right now.  The clash of familiar and foreign is especially noticeable in this time of traditions and memories. 
Decorations:  Folks started decorating mid-October (stores got going in September!)  Decorations here tend to be very American-looking, and extensive.  If one strand of lights is good, four or five, preferably in multiple colors and blinking on and off, is far, far better.  One house in our neighborhood has giant (and I mean, giant) inflatable of Santa’s sleigh, and underneath it a Nativity scene. 
with beauty like this, who needs tacky fake stuff?!

I was hoping to see decorations using things from the culture and materials here.  Instead, it’s no different than back home.  I’ve got to say, instead of enjoying the familiar, I find it sad.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots about how we celebrate back home that I absolutely love!  But, songs about White Christmases, and big blue-eyed Santa Clauses just don’t seem right!

So, so gorgeous!
Parties:  Dominicans love a good party, and in my neighborhood there have been nightly all-night fiestas this week.  In order for a party to be successful, it needs very loud music, a microphone to make announcements throughout the night and plenty of delicious food.  Fuegos artificiales (fireworks) are optional (which is good because the ones up the road Saturday night seemed really close!).  Liquor, and plenty of it, sadly is not.

Gifts:  The giving of gifts doesn’t happen until January 6, which is Epiphany (when the Wise Men gave Jesus their gifts).  I actually really like this.  In theory, it means Christmas itself is more about enjoying time with friends and family and celebrating God-with-us.  Sadly, as in much of the world, for many here, neither is about the gift of Jesus.
More natural beauty.

Noche Buena:  This takes place on Christmas Eve, and is the big night for Dominicans.  It is a time for family and friends to get together for a big feast.  Traditional food includes roast chicken and pig, moro (rice and beans) and other comidas typicas.  Dona Gloria and her family have invited me to be a part of their Noche Buena, here at our house tomorrow.  I feel honored, and so blessed to be included in this special night!

Definitely not a Christmas-time
'like the ones I used to know'!
I miss home and the traditions and preparations there.  This year I didn’t get to make my ‘hot’ pretzels or chai snaps.  My church here doesn’t mark Advent.  No Christmas carols either.  For the first time in eight years I won’t be driving up to my Holiday Family’s house tomorrow night…
This isn't from my walk, but a picture I took a
couple of weeks ago in El Callejon.
Please remember to pray for the precious people there.
That the love of Jesus continues to tranform the ugliness
of life apart from Him into His beauty.

But, despite all the new and different, there is One who remains the same.  The One who gave up so much more than we can comprehend so we will never be Homeless, is here.  I praise Him for the gifts of new friends, new traditions, new ways of understanding a bit more of what it meant for Him to give up everything… In Him we truly are Home!

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