Without snow and the traditions from home, it does not feel like Christmas. It makes me value that much more the sacrifice that my husband has made in living with me, in a land foreign to him. But there is joy in both places, love and family.
Joy. Love. Family.
Christmas begins in Panama on the 24th of December, as family begins to assemble around 10:00 PM. The house is busting at the seams with what seems like 100 first, second, third, even fourth cousins. 95 degrees at the heat of the day, we welcome the cool 85 degrees of the evening.
An army of aunts invade the kitchen. Plates filled with turkey, ham, rice and salad. Chocolates and candy canes are my children’s contribution to the celebration. Cake in honor of abuela’s birthday.
Laughter fills every room, joking amongst family and friends. Children running, jumping and playing despite the language barriers.
When the clock strikes 12:00 midnight, everyone shouts and kisses friends new and old. Fireworks explode outside, neighbors pour into the street, greeting one another, welcoming the birth of the Savior.
The children can now barely contain themselves, finally it is time to open the presents!
The party lasts until 4 or 5:00 AM, although I sneak off after tucking the kids into bed at 2:00 AM, as I can no longer keep my eyes open.
Christmas day we sleep in. Later that afternoon the family leaves to visit relatives, eat, drink and be merry.
Yes, it differs from the quiet Christmas I am accustomed to, where my family still fits around one table. But still it is beautiful. There is joy, there is love, there is family.