Last year, we had only been in Peru for a few months when the holiday season rolled around. We were able to get our homes decorated and a few American-style treats made, but we were still very early in the learning curve to knowing what we could and could not do here. We also had very little exposure to a typical Peruvian family’s Christmas celebration. However, this year, we know quite a bit more about the culture and have been able to learn from our friends as we go.
We were particularly blessed to be invited to celebrate Christmas with Alfredo and Judith, and Judith’s family. Interestingly enough, what that meant is that we joined them on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, Peruvians have their family Christmas on Christmas Eve, and late. They wait until midnight to shoot off fireworks and toast the holiday BEFORE having a dinner of turkey with beef stuffing and various sides from applesauce to salads made of pallares (a large white bean, maybe butter beans?) or beets or other vegetables. Then after eating dinner after shooting fireworks after midnight (are you doing the math?), they open their presents. Sometimes, they will continue on to visit other family members to continue celebrating and stay up until the wee hours. Christmas Day follows with the traditional sleeping as long as they want.
We experienced a slightly different version. Because Judith’s siblings are all married, they met just a little earlier to eat so that they could all be at their in-laws’ homes by midnight. We were told to arrive between 8:30 and 9:00, so we showed up as close to 8:30 as possible, hoping to get our visiting time in before dinner so that we could get the girls home in time to be good and asleep before the fireworks started. It didn’t work out that way. We had some good time with Alfredo and Judith before their family showed up, most coming in during the 10:00 hour. We sat down to eat at about 11:00 to a delicious meal of turkey, applesauce, avocado slices, and pallar salad. Not long after, the family passed out their gifts before heading out to the other homes. We finished up and got home right at midnight. Not that it fazed the girls to fall asleep with fireworks going off everywhere; they were exhausted and went right down.
I really enjoyed the experience, though it was tiring to be out so late and still try to meet our expectations of Christmas Day. It has been a long time since we have sat around a table with that many people, losing ourselves in the cacophony of a family conversation that is going in ten different directions. We laughed a lot and it felt good to be included. When it came time to share gifts, the younger nephew had the job of delivering the packages and the family members were tearing into their presents, hugging each other, and generally behaving exactly the way our families would, besides the Spanish. It couldn’t replace the in-person time that I miss having with our families back home, but it did fill a little piece of me that needs time spent with a large family simply enjoying each other. God continues to provide for us and surround us with wonderful people. We are very blessed.