Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A New Kind of Christmas

From the top: Nativity scene in the plaza at Valle de Banderas; handmade pinatas on a side street in Valle de Banderas; Dan and Jim cradling our new pinata for the ride home; our Christmas pinata; papel picado for Our Lady of Guadalupe hanging on our patio

We have had a busy and joyful month: in mid-November, our wonderful friend Jim came to spend two weeks with us. He was the best kind of guest, who helped me to see our new home through his delighted eyes. Two days after he left, our friends Susie and Dan arrived, along with new friends Shari and Jim. It was great fun showing them around our beautiful Bahia de Banderas: the pictures above were taken the day we went to Valle de Banderas, the small town that is the seat of our municipality. As we were leaving town, we drove down a small side street, and in front of a very modest home hung an array of colorful Christmas pinatas - all painstakingly crafted by the family that lives there. Susie bought us a beautiful big Christmas pinata for our home - too big to put in the cab of the problem, Jim and Dan were riding in the back, Mexican-style, on lawn chairs and held it carefully all the way home.

Just before they returned back to Portland and Tacoma, daughter Justine arrived to spend almost two weeks. We spent lots of time enjoying her visit with our friends - going to dinner at the little restaurant we call "Tacos under the Trees", shopping at the new Liverpool shopping mall in Vallarta and simply resting on our back patio. I tearfully put her on the plane this afternoon, and now we have time to reflect on the many happy memories of the past month, as well as prepare for our Christmas celebration.

On Sunday, we were invited to attend a Christmas "posada" at our neighbor David Velasco's viviero (nursery). Friends Harold and Sue and Joan and Dennis came with us - we were the only "gringos" in attendance. There were about 200 people there, all sitting at tables nestled under the towering palms and beautiful flowers. Bunuelos were served (fried flour tortillas with a honey syrup) and delicious tamales. As I sat there in the warm afternoon sun, watching the children taking turns at hitting the colorful Christmas pinatas, I heard "O Come All Ye Faithful" sung in Spanish by young and tender voices. I realized that we are beginning to find a new Christmas.

It's not the one we have cherished in the past: the fun and frenzy of shopping amidst the sounds of Christmas Carols, decorating a fresh and fragrant Douglas fir, lighting candles throughout the house to chase away the winter gloom. This one is full of sun and light and warmth and more simple pleasures. We'll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with our friends Joan and Dennis, Harold and Sue, Bonnie and Brian. We will all miss our friends and family who are not here with us, and we may reminisce about Christmases past. But we will surely remind each other that we are all so fortunate to be spending our Christmases in this friendly, sunny country that is our new home. Feliz Navidad to all.