Sunday, December 25, 2011

Noche Buena

Noche Buena (the Good Night), which is the big celebration on Christmas Eve, actually started at 5:30 a.m. when Jarabacoa’s mayor sent trucks with loudspeakers and sirens through the streets to announce that Christmas was here. 

Noche Buena is one of the most important events of the year and everyone tries to look their best.  I brought one dress down here, and I figured it would be a good night (get it?!) to pull it out.  I also put on my one pair of heels.  Of course, where most of the gals wore spiky five-inch shoes, at less than three-inches, mine hardly classified as “high”!

Part of my prep included a good-sized snack and some strong coffee.  (Maria had told me dinner would be at 8, so I added two hours and figured we’d be eating around 10).  Below, the first folks started arriving at 8:30. At 9:30 Dona Gloria called upstairs for me to come on. 
Dona Gloria is one of seven children.  Several of them, plus their spouses, kids and grandkids, were there.  In all, there were close to 40 people!

The Spanish for brother-in-law is cuñado and sister-in-law is cuñada.  Dona Gloria introduced me, and then went around one of the tables, Mi hermana, hermana, cuñada, hermano, cuñado, cuñado, cuñado.  It kind of reminded me of that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding with all the relatives named Nick.  Dona Gloria’s mother was also there, so I got to meet her, too. 
When everyone was talking at once, I had a hard time joining in the conversation, but I was able to enjoy some one-on-one chats.  That felt great!

Good food for a Good Night!
As expected, at a little after 10 Dona Gloria called us all in to the dining room.  Her mom gave a blessing, as did she, and then it was time to eat!  What a feast!!
Some of the traditional Dominican Noche Buena foods:

Pasteles en hoja:  deliciously seasoned ground meats and veggies wrapped in dough made of ground starchy vegetables like plantains and yams, then steamed in plantain leaves.  I loved this! 
Ensalada Rusa:  a mayo based potato salad with carrots, peas and corn.  This isn’t my favorite, so I skipped it to leave more room on my plate.

Fried yucca
Moro:  Rice cooked with black beans.  So, so good!

Pastelon de platanos amarillos:  Casserole of ripe plantains, beef and cheese.  Very rich, with a combination of sweet and savory. 
Roast pig:  Tender and tasty – and of course la cabeza (head) was on the table, too.

Roast chicken:  Maria’s chicken is amazing!
Sweets:  traditional sweets include marshmallows, grapes, apples, and jellied fruit.  We also had biscocho (cake).

Alcohol:  The amount of alcohol was pretty overwhelming.  Every person who came brought a big bottle (if not three or four!) of vodka, rum, or whiskey.  There were also plenty of bottles of red wine.  I stuck to soda, which caused a few comments about how I definitely wasn’t a Dominican.  I do have to say, that although people were pouring huge glasses, no one got belligerent or obnoxious.  Loud, definitely, but not angry or aggressive. 
with Lisette
I spent most of the night with Lisette, Maria’s seven year old daughter.  She is really sweet, and kept wanting to give me hugs, and kisses on the cheek.  I found out all about her cousins and what she likes to do and that apples are her favorite fruit.      

Dona Gloria (in center)
dancing the night away! 
At around midnight I said my goodnights.  By now, the dancing was in full swing.  Dona Gloria’s living room is pretty small, but that didn’t keep folks from joining in.  I’m fascinated by how well the girls can get down in those super high shoes!  Dona Gloria was at the center of it all, looking like she was having a great time.  I fell asleep around 1, when it sounded like pretty much everyone left. 
And now, it’s Christmas!  Feliz Navidad, everyone!!    

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