This country is nearly 100% Catholic, which means they celebrate Jesus and you can actually tell your class you are having a Christmas party. There is no “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays”. Anything other than “Jesus” or “Christmas” is considered weird here. As a result (plus they are Latin), Ecuadorians celebrate the holiday on the night of the 24th. This year, I had the privilege of celebrating with my host family. Let me tell you, these people surely know how to celebrate.
We started the party at around 7 p.m. at my host mom’s family’s house. The children put on a show for baby Jesus and we all went around and said prayers (no I am not Catholic, but when in Rome…). After we praised the Lord, we had an enormous turkey dinner. Despite my initial response of “WRONG HOLIDAY FOR A BIRD PEOPLE,” it was good (where is the seafood?). Of course, the meal included rice and potatoes as well. I made the family a brownie cake covered in mints and white chocolate. We ate it with ice cream. I also made peanut butter cookies that were divine. (I spent the afternoon baking, listening to Christmas music, and drinking beer because I couldn’t find the half and half to make eggnog. Next year. It was a glorious afternoon.)
Once we were finished eating, all the children went around distributing presents to family members. I received my first bufanda, which opened the door for my future purchases (watch out Ash, I am going to catch up!). We visited for awhile until my hm’s brothers started leaving. ON the way out, one dropped off some rum and coke at the table. The grandfather caught me looking at it longingly and made my host dad (who had a shot) pour me a drink. The abuelo NEVER speaks, so you can imagine my surprise when he insisted I get a beverage. It was priceless. I love the abuelos. On a side note, I taught them the meaning of “whipped”, as two of Hmom’s brothers are totally whipped. Now they all walk around snapping their fingers and making whipping sounds. It is FANTASTIC, especially when the abuela looks at me and winks as she is doing it! Christmas Eve was no exception.
At 9:30 p.m., we headed to my host dad’s family’s house. I love this place when I am up for the visit. The entire house was decked out in old Ecuadorian lady Christmas decorations. It was fabulous. The tree was beautiful and she had Christmas music blaring in the background. The family visited until the rest of the guests arrived. Once everyone settled in, we celebrated Jesus again, sang some songs courtesy of my host dad and his sister’s guitar playing, and then everyone exchanged gifts. This is when I got a little sad. All the children were delivering presents and wishing their aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and parents merry Christmas. It was so cute and endearing. But at the same time, it made me miss my friends and family. At around midnight, the champagne was sparkling in the glasses, which were circling the room along with sugar cookies (no not the pretty frosted ones). We toasted Navidad and began our second dinner of guess what…. turkey, rice, and potatoes as well as salad and aji (I love this stuff). I brought them a brownie pie too, which we ate with peaches.
My host dad’s older sister started the music around 1 a.m. No, not Christmas music but Salsa and reggeatone. EVERYONE danced, even the grandparents. We did shots of pina coladas, and rum and coke while we danced until 5 A.M!! It was hilarious. These people seriously know how to party. The music was blaring and the shots were never ending. I couldn’t think of a crazier way to celebrate Christmas. I can’t remember the last time I spent this holiday like I did this year. I was very glad I had the opportunity to experience it. I hope you all had a lovely holiday as well.