Friday, December 26, 2008

¡Feliz Navidad!

Thanks to everyone from home who wished us a Merry Christmas. As you can imagine, being here in Guatemala for Christmas has been pretty strange - the first one away from home for both of us - and we're missing our families hugely. That said, we managed to have a great time and celebrate in our own very non-traditional way.

That's not us in the huge head costumes, by the way. We're in Antigua, Guatemala, where we got together with some friends whom we've met along the way. Here, the main public celebration for Christmas takes place on Christmas Eve. Children, accompanied by a marimba band on a truck, wear these colourful big-headed disguises in a procession around the town.

The procession passes between the churches (of which there are many) to the sound of marimba music and firecrackers.

The people of Antigua eat traditional tamales at midnight, at which time a huge number of (extremely loud) firecrackers are set off. If you happen to be in bed by this time, you might think a war has just started. Believe me, it's deafening!

During the day and evening, there are also children in very scary masks collecting for charity. I think you'll agree just how scary they look!

On the day, we met up with our friends, one of whom, Anita, had bought a piñata. For the uninitiated, it's a paper maché effigy filled with sweets that, as a game, people take turns in hitting with a stick until it breaks. The twist is that you're blindfolded and, before you take a swing, spun round a few times so that you're quite dizzy. Oh, and we drank champagne while doing it. Let me tell you, it's not as easy to hit as you'd think...

Cute, isn't he? I'm not sure what sort of creature he is (was) though.

Because the photos don't really do it justice, here's a video of Rach's go. She was pretty proud as she managed to hit it twice from three attempts.

He took a surprising amount of punishment before giving up his sweets. In the end, the final blow was struck by Duane, a Canadian and also the only one of us who had prior piñata experience.

Later in the day, we went up to an eco-lodge in the mountains above Antigua. (It was a proper eco-lodge as well, with a composting toilet!) We had a view of not one but three volcanoes, one of which is very active and spewed some lava for us later in the night, was spectacular.

The lodge also has an avocado farm - and consequently about the best guacamole I've ever had!

We had a fantastic veggie Christmas meal of stuffed aubergine, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing... and ate until we were fit to burst! A little bit of tradition after all.


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