Now that Christmas has finally come & gone, I thought I would share just a few activities we experienced this year. As similar to Christmases in the past here, I find it still a little difficult to get my mind wrapped around the season probably because of the warm weather and there is not so much commercialism here in Pedasi. Super Central Market has one table displaying Christmas lights and decorations and another with some Christmas cookies and gift baskets. Although we decorate our artificial Christmas tree and hang up lights outside, many houses do not decorate at all. This year the town center park was lit up with lights all around in the trees and gazebo. And some houses do have lights and some have Bethlehem town displays. Some larger markets in Las Tablas and Chitré have much more Christmas decor throughout, even elaborate Bethlehem scenes (something that is very politically incorrect in the states). When you get to the big cities such as David & Panama City, it is a different story with Christmas lights and decorations all over, and the stores are busy with Christmas shoppers. The American “Black Friday” has even spread to the city malls and stores, but again we live too far away to get caught up in all that hype.
I did all of my shopping for Christmas presents online, sending gifts ordered through Amazon and gift certificates to grandchildren and our adult children in the U.S. There were no presents under our tree. Mikkel and I buy things throughout the year as needed or when we can, although Mikkel did surprise me with a new purse from our local Artesania store at midnight on Christmas night. I miss the excitement that comes with watching children opening up their presents around the tree, the family sitting around in pajamas, having a big Christmas dinner together. I miss singing in Christmas music concerts with my church and Placer Pops Chorale (a semi-professional group I was a part of). I do not miss the many Christmas commercials on TV trying to convince you to buy so many things that you don’t even want but must have. I do not miss the crowds at the stores and the traffic on the roads.
So this Christmas I decided to get in the Christmas spirit, I would post each day on Facebook beginning December 1st and counting down to the 25th encouraging and wishing a “Merry Christmas” to my Facebook friends with a tropical Christmas scene. each day brought many likes and favorable responses. I would also say “Merry Christmas” or “Feliz Navidad” as often as possible to anyone I came in contact with. This always brought a smile to their face and verbal “gracias” or “igual” (“thank you” or “the same”).
Mikkel and I also tried to watch a Christmas movie on Amazon Fire TV each evening. Some were a little “smaltchzy”, some were okay. The traditional ones such as “The Christmas Story” and “Its a Wonderful Life” cost money to rent; we opted out since we have seen them many times before.
Having recently stepped down as leader of Animal Advocates of Pedasí, I am still involved in volunteering in some of their activities They had their bi-anual “Mercado” (Patio Sale) on December 17th. This time it was scheduled to coincide on the same day as the monthly “Feria” in Pedasí where local vendors and artisans come together at the town square to sell their products. So we did not have the vendors as we had in the past, nor did we have a bake sale. But as before, people were lined up early (6:30am) to get first “dibs” on the donations of clothing, housewares, and other items we had been collecting since the last Mercado. And at 8:00am when the gate opened, they rushed in like “Black Friday”.
This time the coordinator for this fundraiser had a great idea to direct those entering to go a certain way by roping off with tape and chairs which made it less confusing and easier to manage those who were purchasing and exiting. We also were selling “Pedasi” license plates that can be bolted on the front bumper of a car or just displayed, a great and successful fundraising idea from one of our newest members. Although a lot of work goes into this by several volunteers, this time we actually made more money than previous “Mercados”, all funds going toward subsidizing & supporting sterilization clinics and the education of responsible pet care.
The last week before Christmas, Pedasí was beginning to look more like Christmas. The town square was lit up with lights throughout the trees & gazebo; Santa Catalina church was also lit up. And the children’s playground down the road had been decorated. Now I was starting to feel a little more of the Christmas spirit.
Christmas Eve finally arrived and again I was asked to lead Christmas carols at Smiley’s. (Sorry, did not get any pictures.) The Christmas dinner that was served was delicious (smoked ham, chicken, waldorf salad, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy). Had a great time singing with lots of participation.
On Christmas Day, we slept in due to a traditional all night celebration on Christmas Eve in the pueblo of fireworks and loud music nearby. Later that afternoon, after visitors from Michigan arrived, we all went over to our friends Open House to enjoy good food & drink, good talk, and good music.
The evening there was a Christmas parade in town with lots of bright lights, games and bounce houses for the children, music, candy, gifts handed out to children, Santa Claus, and of course, more fireworks.
This is how we celebrated Christmas 2016 in Pedasí; each year being a little different than the previous. And although I miss my family and friends back in the U.S., I was not disappointed. The spirit of Christmas continues to live in our hearts. We have many friends here now and feel like we are part of the community as well. So although somewhat different than my past Christmases, we still enjoyed it. One thing I do realize is that we experience a lot less stress through this season now and focus more on sharing our love, our hearts, and our blessings with others rather than shopping and receiving gifts.
So from our home to yours, may God bless you throughout 2017 with His joy, comfort, and love. As we say in Pedasí, “prospero año nuevo” – Happy New Year!