Navidad in Nicaragua

Many years ago Lennie Wilker, my first husband, and I wrote an annual “Holiday Letter” that updated our friends about the latest happenings in our family.  Sometimes it was sent before the end of December.  Occasionally it wouldn’t get written or sent–yes, in an envelope with a stamp–until later by a couple of months.  I thought it would be nice to update my Blog with a new Holiday Letter.

The Holiday Season beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing until the day after the New Year is a festive time for me.  Here in Nicaragua it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas too.  Now that most of the rural homes have electricity, those families that live above the survival level are decorating their homes with a few lights.  Other families have small cardboard images of Santa Claus and other commercial Christmas figures hung on their doors or stuck on palas (sticks) in their yard.  It is surprising to me to see how fast the commercialism of the US has spread to us here in rural Nicaragua.

Managua is a whole other level of splendor and Holiday paraphernalia.  The rotundas are decorated with gigantic figures of Nativity scenes, Christmas trees–all metallic–and Santa with Elves.  There isn’t enough money in the government treasury to pay for employees but somehow there is funding for these elaborate displays.  OK, that statement is out of line for a cheery holiday spirit.  Needless to say it bugs me though to see this dichotomy of resources.

My tribute to the Holidays is to do a little decorating at Condo 1B.  My roommate/tenant, Sherry, helped me make a wreath with greenery from around the yard and a pine cone that I purchased at Sinsa, the biggest hardware chain in NI.  I also picked up a little wooden stick Christmas tree that has tiny lights.  It is battery operated so we can see the tree and lights from almost everywhere inside and the front terrace.

My biggest event for the season will be a piñata party at my Guzmán Family’s compound in the village.   I got a large white headless angel piñata and will fill it with the carmelos (candies) that are usually expected with a piñata.  I decided that the headless angel was a better idea than beating to death a piñata that looked like a real angel figure.  Last year the circular Santa face piñata that I found was filled with 5 cordoba coins and no candy.  It was truly fun and every child in the compound under 12 years old also got a piggy bank to put in their found coins.  This year isn’t going to be as lavish an event as I made last year.  I can’t afford that extravagance again, however, I did a lot debating before deciding against a repeat performance.  The party will be in the afternoon on Christmas Day.  I know everyone will enjoy the cake and juice and the kids will knock each other over in the scramble for the piñata candy.

I’m spending many hours most days working on the English as a foreign language (EFL) textbooks that I am writing with Kathy Ramirez.  Two books completed five to go before January 11th.  So I’m stopping this blog now and getting back to work.

Happy Holidays to EVERYONE.

Only Love Prevails.  Solo el amor prevalece.

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My Holidays in Nicaragua

Living away from my family at holiday time is normal for me. Our household had many holidays because we practiced both Jewish and Christian traditions for many years. My favorite of all the holidays was and still is Thanksgiving a tradition related to gratefulness and love.

When my children were young we traveled to their grandparents home from our home in southern to northern California for Christmas holidays. Now living in Nicaragua where it is warm and beautiful, I prefer not to travel in the cold and to spend the seasonal holidays here.

Several friends come to their homes in Rancho Santana every year during the cold weather. As a result those of us who live here have developed some traditions of our own.

Thanksgiving, although the US date isn’t the same as the NI date, is a big event. Even Nicaraguense join in to the celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Rancho Santana always has a traditional feast in the restaurant that is excellent and fun. The day before Thanksgiving Day one of my RS permanent resident friends has started the Friendsgiving dinner. There is the traditional turkey feast with guests bringing extra dishes to delight the palate. This year I think there were 50 people of all ages enjoying the dinner and evening. A lot of folks who we know come from other towns to join the fun. Friendsgiving Day is my newest favorite holiday.

This year the Friendsgiving hosts are also having an Italian Christmas Dinner and White Elephant party on Christmas Day. This is a good thing for me because I do miss Christmas morning at the Leah and Tim Smith’s house where the piles of presents are passed out and then opened one after another. My Friendsgiving hosts are Joanne and Kenny Smith. A perfect coincidence Christmas Day for me to attend.

On the 22nd I hosted a Christmas Piñata Fiesta for my Guzmán Family at their campo. We are a group of 53 family members that range in age—me being the oldest—to the youngest of six months. The piñata, that I bought in the store that makes them in Managua, was perfect for my idea of a piñata. No carmelos in this piñata as I dislike the idea of more candy for kids with the little candy wrap papers flying all over. I put 200 coins—5 cordoba—into the piñata. There were 18 children under the age of 10. We paired the older children with one of the little ones as an ayudante (helper). When the piñata finally broke and yesterday it didn’t, it fell from the rope after many beatings, all the kids piled after the coins. The ayudantes were the ultimate collectors for their partner. The coins were counted and put into a piggy bank, called an alcancía, that each child received and had their name written on. The ayudante was also given a bank with their name and the same number of coins was deposited into their alcancía. Although there was much skepticism about this piñata and how it would work, in the end everyone especially the kids, thought it was great fun. There was much noise from bank rattling until the parents told their offspring to take their banks to their homes on sight in the campo. I think the concept of saving money little by little was a new idea for the parents and older children. Hopefully savings will grow as so many other ideas have done in my Nica family.   Afterward we all had Christmas cupcakes and juice—pure juice not the sugar flavored water that prevails. The adults, all 34 of them, received a small wrapped gift for the females or a special Holiday card for the men with some money. This family is as dear to me as my amazing biological family. They both take care of me and I love them all.

For the past six weeks, I’ve had a roommate. Katie Phelan is a three-month pastry consultant at the Rancho Santana restaurant. She has been working 12-hour days so I didn’t see her very much except for the very few breakfasts or dinners we had here at the condo. Katie left today and I’ll be moving the day after Christmas to my friend Gail’s house for a week as the condo is rented. I’ll be back to the condo for one week and then off again for a month for another renter. It will be nice when the condo sells, I can finish building my house, and won’t have to keep moving around with food and office.

The Guasacate house construction has focused the past two months on the Great Wall—retention and water reservoir—on the ocean side of the house. Now as the wall is almost completed, the inside of the house can receive the construction work.

I continue to work editing online courses that is such fun for me and is keeping me busy enough as well. In the beginning of December I taught my Cuidadores de Personas class for two days in Granada. That was stated to be successful for the four attendees. I enjoyed staying at my friend Terry Leary’s home around the corner from she and her sister Nancy Bergman’s hotel Casa San Francisco. The class was held in Terry’s home but I ate all my meals at the hotel restaurant Bocadillos that they lease to a young couple. All these owners are from the SFO area and it feels like home when I am there.

Now it is time to visit with more friends and celebrate the season.

So Happy and Peaceful Solstice, Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year to you all.

Sent with MUCH LOVE.

Piñata with 2 yr. old Sebastián