Tag Archives: birthdays

How To Celebrate Christmas in Guatemala and the Meaning of Christmas

By Brendan Scott

Last year I learned the meaning of Christmas.  I spent Christmas 2010 in Guatemala, away from the snow of Colorado and more importantly away from my family.  Guatemala, or at least my home city of Xela, doesn’t celebrate Christmas the way most of the world celebrates the birth of Christ.  Sure at the Inter-American School, where I worked, we had a Christmas Play.  Last year the elementary performed the well known play Izzy Saves Christmas, where Izzy the mouse saves Christmas.  Haven’t heard of it?  Well, it’s a Guatemalan staple, or it is now.

I also taught my students what the best kind of Christmas party is; a White Elephant Party.  Who doesn’t want to go home with an alarm clock in a country where it is better to use your cellphone as an alarm at night, because anything plugged into the wall just might lose power.

But where Guatemala, and especially Xela, differs from Christmas in the United States is Christmas Eve.  Growing up as a Presbyterian Pastor’s kid, in the United States my family’s Christmas tradition centered around our church’s Christmas Eve service.  Every year, especially when I was younger, my mom would force me into my Christmas best, drive me and my sisters to church, and we would light the Christ Candle.  As I documented last year in my blog I’ll Be Home For Christmas my family always had the misfortune of lighting the Christ Candle, which never went smoothly.  I fought with my sister in front of 1,000 plus people who’d come to church expecting to hear how Christ came to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men.  The next year they expected something else, and I did not fail them.   I dropped a lit match on the carpet floor.  Fortunately the church didn’t burn down.

I did not have to light the Christ Candle for Christmas Eve in Xela.  I was a spectator, surrounded by friends and Guatemalan families who had come to celebrate Christ’s birth.  As much as I missed being with my family last year I enjoyed witnessing how the Latin culture celebrates Christmas.  My favorite part of the service at Saint Mark’s was the Posada.  A handful of kids marched into the church dressed as Guatemalan Marias and Joses with sumbreros and mustaches followed by a very Guatemalan baby Jesus Cristo.

Shortly after the service, after I had sung my share of Spanish Christmas Carols I headed back to my house with Skyy, his mom Susan, Jen (co-worker), Blake and Amy (co-workers), Blake’s family, and Holland (another co-worker) and his boys to set off fireworks.  Ask anyone in Guatemala and they will tell you setting off fireworks is the real reason for the season.  I may have spent upwards of twenty dollars on fireworks, which didn’t even match what Skyy (one of my student’s whose house I lived at) spent.  Us guys took the next couple of hours detonating our ammunition.  At midnight Xela sounded as if it were under attack, the entire city lit up like the large Christ Candle.

Christmas Eve has aways been family time for me, quiet and relaxing (after the Christmas Eve service at least).  This year I plan on watching “How Earnest Saved Christmas” with my two sisters.  I look forward to waking up on Christmas morning and being with my family.  But I will always remember how much fun I had lighting off fireworks and celebrating my savior’s birth with people my Guatemalan family.

Christmas is not about what you do, what you give or what you get, but in the end it is about enjoying the birth of Christ with those who are around you.  No matter where you are.  Last year on Christmas day Donna and Laurel McMarlin (Laurel was one of my co-workers) welcomed me into their family and shared their Christmas with me.  They helped make what could have been a lonely day, a day full of love and celebration, which made for a perfect Christmas.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Rejoice! It’s October!

Ever notice how many “officially designated” special days there are on the U.S. calendar? Seriously! If you wanted to, you could celebrate something every day of the year. Though you might be celebrating some very strange things like “Cephalopod Awareness Day” (Octopus Day!) or “World Wetlands Day.”

It’s as if there is some odd contest to see which month can pile up the most (weirdest) special holidays and observances, apparently each month vying for “The Best Month of the Year Award” (BMYA). But no matter how many strange observances those other months compile, there is no contest.

Is December the best month of the year, boasting as it does of Advent and shopping and Christmas? Celebrating the birth of Jesus is a pretty big deal, except Jesus may not have actually been born in December. But one would think that that one holiday would make December pre-eminent. Apparently not because someone saw the need to add, uh hm, “Take It In The Ear Day” (December 8).

January weighs in with its attempt at winning “The Best Month of the Year” with New Year’s Day. Wow! The month that gives us all a fresh start and second chance. Pretty impressive. Except many people spend the day sleeping and hung-over. Maybe that’s why January also sports “National Humiliation Day” (I wish humiliation happened to me only once a year).

February doesn’t come close to best month of the year (despite that my son and grand-daughter were born in February) because it limps onto the stage boasting of Valentines Day (often very similar to Humiliation Day, for guys at least) and Ground Hogs Day. Have you actually seen a ground-hog? They are not much to look at.

March is a good month (both of my daughters were born then). Spring, though muddy and blustery, begins somewhere near this month. But officially March commemorates St Patrick’s Day (which is a dubious holiday because, though St Patrick did some really selfless and amazing things, chasing snakes out of Ireland and drinking green beer were not among them). So someone thought they also needed to dub March “National Noodle Month.” Even many Irish don’t really care.

April claims to be “National Frog Month.” Ten year-old boys must love April. But what self-respecting month begins with a special Day for Fools (no, not my birthday). Enough said.

May marks May Day and is called “National Moving Month.” Sorry but running around a pole naked and packing and hauling boxes aren’t my idea of a good party.

Everybody loves June and the beginning of summer; but June also brags of being “Potty Training Awareness Month” (which may be why my grandson was born in June). Close but no cigar.

July observes Independence Day (in the U.S.) and—lucky, or not, for all those July 4 picnickers—is also “National Baked Beans Month.” What no beer?

August is just hot. Why is this even on the list?

September settles in very close to the top of the BMYA list because my wife’s birthday is September—yes, the whole month. September also celebrates “National Cable TV Month.” If only . . .

November also nestles near number one for Best Month of the Year celebrating Thanksgiving and “International Drum Month” (is this somehow connected with all those leftover Thanksgiving drum sticks?). Tryptophan!

But the obvious winner of the Best Month of the Year Award is . . . “November, drum roll please” . . . OCTOBER!

Mr Bean celebrates October!

You laugh? Consider the following: October celebrates “Free Thought Month” (which gives me permission to freely think October is pre-eminent), “National Liver Awareness,” “Hispanic Heritage,” “Fire Prevention,” “Disability Awareness,” “National Popcorn Popping,” and “Church Library Month” (that’s a biggy).

October also features some of the best contradictory observances: “Go Hog Wild—Eat Country Ham Month” alongside “Hunger Awareness,” “Month of the Dinosaurs” beside “Clergy Appreciation” (maybe that’s not a contradiction), and “National”—get that—NATIONAL!—”Sarcastic Month” combined with “Positive Attitude Month.” And then there’s “Halloween” (which some might consider a blight on a nearly perfect month).

I’m sorry but all other months of the year pale in comparison to October. Fall is in full bloom, Pro and College football compete with baseball’s World Series. And all the best hunting seasons touch October. Plus there are some pretty amazing people who were born in the month of October. I won’t mention any names; just let it be known that October is also “Self-Promotion Month.”

Yes, October wins hands down.

So, what’s all this got to do with life, faith, and all that important, serious stuff? I’m not really sure.

Maybe . . .

  • Humans are incredibly creative and at the same time extremely silly.
  • There are way too many things to prevent, be aware of, and celebrate than is humanly possible.
  • I am just so ebullient about October I had to write something about it.
  • Or looking at the calendar we can all notice, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.”

For those lucky ones born in October–The Best Month of the Year–rejoicing and being glad may be easier than for others. Enjoy.

Eugene C. Scott is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church and has nothing against a really good birthday party.

17 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized