Monday, December 28, 2015

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas to all!  Our Christmas abroad proved to be exactly what we expected, completely different from any other we have ever experienced.  We found it difficult to get into the Christmas season for many reasons.  First it just doesn't feel like Christmas in the oppressive humid heat of the tropics.  Second, we happen to live on a very long road where everyone on the street is a Jehovah's Witness.  They are very nice and we wave and say "hola" as we drive to our house which is located at 800 meters Camino San Rafael, which means 800 meters up the road called San Rafael, not that there is a sign telling you that that is the road's name, but that is just Costa Rica.  What it came down to, however, is that there was not a Christmas light, tree, wreath, or "Feliz Navidad" in the neighborhood, because no one here was celebrating Christmas.  Even in town there were no Christmas decorations, music, or Santa.  This wore on the kids.  Maggie summed up the consensual feelings of the group when she wrote in her journal on December 16,
"I miss home so much and all the things there.  Christmas just won't be the same."
Maggie's sand nativity.
We had originally wanted to find somewhere we could volunteer or do service, but when we got down here we figured out that nobody wanted the help of a family with five young children.  The language barrier was so huge at church that we haven't been able to find service oppourtunities there either.  So we tried to help battle the feelings of homesickness and missing all things Christmas by starting some new traditions.  We encouraged all the kids to create their own Nativity out of whatever they could scrounge up.  Maggie and Tessa both completed theirs.  Max had grand plans to create one using only bugs, but in the end decided he couldn't collect enough participants, and he refused to simplify.  

We also sang Christmas songs in the car, to the delight and dismay of different individuals.  At home we could stream in some music to listen to, but we could not find a radio station in English or Spanish that played any Christmas music at all.  Secretly I was really enjoying not being oppressed with the busyness and commercialism that drowns out the Christmas season.  Music, however, was the part of Christmas that I was missing.  

On Christmas Eve we headed off to the beach!  On our way to Playa Negra we passed dozens and dozens of people walking down the roadsides.  They were each carrying a brown paper bag, their Christmas shopping!  Once we saw this it made perfect sense, most Costa Ricans don't waste much time thinking about the future.  They tend to live day by day and this obviously included Christmas preparations.  Everything in the moment.  We also learned that those who do have a nativity do not put Jesus in the manger until Christmas day.  After all, he didn't actually lay in the manger until Christmas.  
On our way to the beach we picked up liter of ice cream
for six dollars.  This was obviously a very memorable thing
for the kids, they all wrote about it.
Tessa, "Today we went to the black sand beach and the waves were BIG!!!  There were lots of surfers and I even went in the big waves!  Today was Christmas Eve so we ate ice cream on the beach.  Sooooooooooooooooooooooo fun!!"

Max, "Mom got ice cream and in five minutes, like piranhas, we devoured the whole carton!" 

Maggie, "Today we went to playa negra and the waves were so big there were a whole bunch of surfers.  I put some goggles on and kind of belly flopped over the waves.  Mom got a barrel of ice cream and spoons and we all crowded around it.  it was so good!  There were some people looking at us strangely bit I didn't care."
Max catching some of the small waves.

That evening we returned  to tradition, with
the depiction of the Christmas story from Luke 2.
The angel and the shepherds acting "sore afraid"

Most egg nog here is laced with a healthy dose
of rum, but we found a small carton alcohol free.
After the kids went to bed Aaron and I locked ourselves
downstairs and started wrapping presents in whatever
was available.  This included pillow cases and jackets,
but mostly recycled grocery sacks.  It made our little
Christmas palm look like it sheltered one of  piles of garbage
we so frequently see along the roadsides here, but I thought
it looked beautiful and fitting.  
We always make a big deal of Christmas morning breakfast and
luckily this year's was a big hit.  The bacon was especially tricky
to find here.  Getting our hands on some was a Christmas miracle!
Maggie "Breakfast prep took like one hour but it was so worth it!  We had egg, latkes, caramel cinnamon rolls, fresh squeezed orange juice, a chocolate blueberry drink, and BACON.  I was ecstatic."

Gifts were simple and mostly disposable because we have to carry everything with us wherever we go.  Everyone was overjoyed with their edible gifts.  Jonah complained to me later in the day, however, that he didn't like getting a toothbrush for Christmas.  :)

Max, "I had prepared Mom a surprise.  Mom got a note about where it was.  I was excited and happy she found the question mark shaped bushes. (the clue) And found the vase I had worked for a week on made out of coconut.  I was so glad she loved it.  She filled it with flowers and it looked wonderful!"

After the festivities of Christmas morning we were ready to head to the beach.
 Just as we almost had ourselves together a Christmas downpour kept us at home.
 Gratefully we were able to talk with some friends and family on the
 phone and through FaceTime.  Another Christmas miracle!
And we still made it to the beach for about an hour in the late afternoon.
This boy LOVES the waves!
Maggie, (after present opening) "We took everything upstairs and I set up a fort.  I felt so happy.  I helped Eli and Jonah, played a game of marbles with Max, and had some chocolate.  We started getting ready to go then it started raining.  It felt like the ocean came to us!  So we played some skipbo which was really fun.  Then we went to the beach, nothing to interesting.  Then dinner...we had chicken so tender it fell off the bone, amazing mashed potatoes,rolls cooked to perfection, and ginger ale.  I loved this Christmas." 

Everyone pitched in creating our Christmas feast.  Maggie cooked the chicken, Jonah mashed and 
re-mashed the potatoes.  I think that this helped with the excitement.  At the end of the day, despite being all by ourselves in a tropical, less than first world country, we had a fabulous Christmas!  We felt a fullness of love for each other and for our Savior who's birth we were celebrating.  And isn't that what Christmas is all about? 

P.S.  A couple of my favorite kid quotes of the season (we may be the only ones who enjoy these, but I want to remember)
Jonah, during Christmas trivia on the 45 minute drive to church when he was asked what kind of animals the shepherds watched, "Uuuuummmm, ...CHICKENS!"

Eli, while talking on the phone Christmas day, "We'll one thing that's different about Costa Rica is my skin is more black."


  1. These pictures are fantastic and your christmas sounds unforgettable! XOXO

    1. Christy,
      Thanks SO much for checking our blog and commenting! We absolutely love hearing from those we adore back home! Happy New Year!