Monday, December 8, 2008
Espiritu de Navidad
After ten pretty intense days of cooking for the Wench family, I decided that this weekend we were going to take it easy. I had made some plans to go out but canceled them to hang out with Ophelia to make cookies and decorate for Christmas. The transition into Christmas down here for me has been very difficult not because I am lonesome or missing my family and traditions, but because I keep forgetting that it is coming. I might be more nostalgic if I were at all aware that Christamas was in fact on the way, but its not cold here, there is no snow, no physical sign, no smell of pine. Ok well thats not exactly true Costco is selling Christmas tree's and when you walk past the tree cage you can smell them but I think of it as kind of a zoo for pine tree's they don't grow here, they don't live here they are just an imported attraction therefore the smell of pine just seems out of place and almost manufactured, like "fresh pine" scent car deoderizers, not fresh chilled scent of a good ole Minnesota Blue spruce. So the smell doesn't trigger thoughts of Christmas, its more just jarring, I sort of stumble in confusion on my exit from Costco and then I remember oh yah they're rehabliltating pines for christmas and once they are ready will release them into the wild...via car top. This is my reacation to all of Cabo's Christmas attempts at celebrating. The Santa decorations at Ophelias school are just confusing. To start, they had them up before Thankgiving. I mean everybody knows the rule No Christmas stuff before Thansgiving, but the day after, let loose, full on barage of Christmas cheer. But it is truely frowned upon to decorate or even play Christmas music any day before Thanksgiving. O's school had their stuff up a whole week before Thanksgiving. Thats practically still Halloween. And where's my Thanksgiving turkey and pilgrim stuff...oh thats right...they don't really do that here. Turkey is the Christmas meal, which by the way shocked me. Mexican restaurants here, the ones FAR away from the tourists are advertising Christmas Turkey dinner, say wha???? I would've thought Chili's Nogada or like a whole cabeza or something. Turkey just seems so gringo.
And at Ophelia's school thay have a sort of hobbit sized Santa really he doesn't even really look like Santa, more of a Kris Kringle meets Sam Gamgee if you ask me. In the middle of the school yard there is a large non-pinetree decorated with large sparkly ornaments, I quite like it and shall request to have one in my yard someday, with year-round ornaments which is completely acceptable since this is not infact a Christmas tree. Yards are decorated just like we do in Minnesota but again, it all seems so out of place. They decorate with snowmen and reigndeer. One arid yard in one of the barrios up by Betty's house actually donned a banner with a picture of Frosty that said, "Let it snow, Let it snow, let it snow", in english and just weird. Haha funny something left over from a yard sale. It just doesn't sink in. Aside from a little furrow of confusion Christmas ain't really happenin'.
I think though if there was more Mexican traditions then I could getting into it. I have to say I have been enjoying the Christmas music at the grocey store. All of our traditonal songs but in Spanish and I quite like that. Usually Christmas music starts to wear on me after a bit and here it feels like it is all new. I like to think of it as a mini little spanish lesson. And this evening as I was driving home I was noticing that they only light up the trunks of trees so it just looks like pillars of lights along the highway. Then I realized those aren't tree's they are cactuses. Well now, that's what I'm talkin' about, only the cactus was missing the tell tale cactus arm so they just looked like random pillars, but once I realize what they were, I liked them. Oh and they decorate their cars like reindeer or put wreaths on them. Now that is something I might even participate in. I think 68 might just be blitzen. And it's so slick they sell them on the busy side of the road. You don't even need to get out of your car they have a full selection for reindeer adornments sold right there at the green light that you just missed cuz someone was planning on decking out their haul (oh no I di'ent).
So I'm trying...REALLY hard to get into the spirit. Especially for my daughters sake. I don't want her say some day. "Oh I dunno, we used to celebrate Christmas, but that all changed once we moved to Mexico.
But I have to tell you, here is the other thing that I am contending. My rock, my main source of Mexican life info, My Betty is also a Jahova's Witness and as most of you know they don't celebrate Christmas. JW's don't celebrate much at all, I'm sure there is a very reasonable explaination for it for which I keep forgetting to ask due to the constant shock that she just doesn't participate in any of that. But here is the thing and I am "outting" her right now. She puts lights on her house! There I said it. Celebrater! Dec 25 is her Birthday though and she's using that as an excuse. She's in the closet though so I get no Mexican Christmas tradition insight from a closet Christmas lover.
So I thought to myself, we best be makin' our own. What do I love to do for Christmas, what are my favorite traditions. I grew up with split families. "My mom's side" and "My dad's side" I would switch off Christmas Eve and Christmas with one or the other. But then we began to grow new traditions that we liked so much that we couldn't ignore just because it wasn't my day with that family. Those events had to live on just on days other than Christmas Eve or Morn. Like Christmas with the Creagers, where we all draw names and for me this is my most important gift giving of the year. Everybody watches eachother open their one gift and we all have such strong personalities that the "just the right" gift is really important on this night. There is a sort of unspoken competition. More like a yogic compition, youare not compteting with others but with yourself to get the best gift for that person that you could possiably give. There is no price limit all is fair so long as not excessive like a car or large electronic device, which would be sort of frowned upon anyway because the goal here is creativity and pegging your person. For the most part we are all pretty easy. The only person who we all hated to draw his name was Mike. He was just so tough to buy for only because anything that he wanted he went out and got it. He always handled a pair of socks or a or funny hat with grace. It is for this same reason that we love to be on the receiving end with Mike drawing our name. He often procrastinated, had impeccable style and price was no object. If he drew you, you were getting something AWESOME most likely from Nordstroms or Brookstone or somewhere and it was always the perfect thing that you never in a million years would've gotten for yourself. It kind of became a thing to see who was the lucky one and what the lucky one got but really we all put a lot of thought into our gifts and for that it is really fun. But the real fun comes at the pre-gift giving dice game where the family gets ruthless stealing presents from each other and arguing about the rules and how long we should put the timer on for (usually it's based on how soon till dinner is ready). Here the object is to have the most tantilizingly wrapped gift so that yours is the most saught after. Again yogic compition all within youself, but the real compition is on the floor as you steal from you family member and talk smack across the pie tin holding the dice. I'm telling you this is good clean fun people and it is not to be missed. Ever since I can remember we have been doing this, this is the first year I am missing it since I lived in England.
Then there is the ever loved Adult Family Dinner, meaning no kids, not "dirty" family dinner. This is the night we choose some super awesome fancy place that none of us would get to eat at on our own. I am usually in charge of choosing. This is a job that I take very seriously. But it wasn't always mine. The tradition started at Gustinos a place in downtown MPLS where all the waitstaff were singers and they would pause service to sing some show tune or christmas carol and it was magic. We would do our christmas shopping at Gavidae Commons and then head up for the show and three hours of epic eating. Gustiono's closed down years ago and we haven't found another place with all of the classy singing but we have fun getting just a little acceptably sauced on cosmo's (well Kelly and I do) while Gramma sips on half a gin and tonic, Will tests out a White Russian and now all a toast of Prosecco to Mikey (a traditon I do belive will live on here in Mexico) and perhaps if we're at Inonni we'll do a little digestife of grappa and I'm talken the good stuff (that one won't live on in Mexico too fancy pants). We roll home after another night of epic eating and wonder how it is that we can enjoy 'us' so much when we just saw each other all the other day. Weird. Fun. Adult Family Dinner usually kicks off the holiday season for me.
The grand finale is usually the Girl Party. I can't even remember how long this has been happening. But this party is the rockenist. You take all of my faveorite ladies and when I mean all I mean people fly in for this one, or extend their ticket so as not to miss The Girl Party. You can pretty much be any girl who knows a girl who knows us and you are invited. It is open ended. We brilliantly decided to do a gift exchange in which you bring a gift that represents yourselfm that way anyone can particpate no need to pre plan, essental for this group of girls, if you wanna come you are in. We decided who gets the gifts dice game style. This is a little less good clean fun and can be very difficult to finish the game as the wine, cosmos's whisky and champange has been flowing and Anni's late with the appitizers and the only thing there was to eat was Barb's weird stinky cheese that was forcing everyone out of the kitchen and streight to the bar area kind of thing. And the chatting and catching up with people you haven't seen since last years girls party and sobbing about how much we love eachother and how this tradtion should never end, even when we are eighty. Then we all decide AGAIN that when we are old and rich one of us will buy a house or we all will and we will all live together like we did in college and take up smoking and whiskey if we haven't already or whatever other vices we choose, wear depends and hire a couple of hot nurses and a pool boy. ahhhh sigh, I wonder what sort of plans they'll make this year without me...and somewhere in there we might even open some presents. If we're all feeling good and sappy we might even throw a high low in there. Ladies I think we should this year... I send mine via email. I'll be your virtual guest.
And as I think about all of these events and all of my fave pieces of the holidays and believe me those are just a few highlights, there's the Hozzledazzle (as Quam calls it), Christmas morning eggbake and the December family birthday party and so much more. But as I look at it, all of these traditons are about the people and our history and have grown and morphed over time. There is not one thing that I can peg to start my own traditon here with Ophelia and I (oop except for eggbake we are doin' eggbake, I already found dry mustard so that shouldn't be a problem). So I'm making it up as I go along and I assume that is how they all get started anyhow. I had promise O a weekend of Christmas decorating and cookie making. We head over to the Cabo Walmart where I know they have decorations and assuming they might be a little more "Americany" and have cookie making stuff. The plan is chocolate chip cookies, which do not exist in Mexico, not real ones, not Gramma Marion, yellow nestle buttery gewy ones, and chocolate almond bark covered peanutbutter ritz sandwhiches (we should come up for a name for those cuz that is really long), which do not exist anywhere except in the Christopherson household and don't last long mind you. I am delusional with hope. I am thinkin' I have a lot of luck with the Chocolate chip cookies all I need are the chips and some baking soda and I've got the rest. I begin my quest and a very kind lady in a very large red apron that says, "ASK ME I SPEAK ENGLISH" pegs me as in need of assistance and gets three people to help us find Chocolate "Chispas"(cute). Ok not too hard even. How about baking soda???? Nope she knows it right off the bat. Not comin' in for another two hours. She shows me the blank space in the baking aisle and sure enough clear out of baking soda, they've got everything thing else but, even baking powder, but it is not the same thing. No alternative to baking soda. I give up on the Chocolate Chip cookies and bagged the idea of the almond bark ones as soon as a hit aisle 6 and new there was no way I was explaining Chocolate Almond Bark and getting what I wanted out of the deal so unless I saw them I was S.O.L. Here I've gone and done it again. Made a promise to my darling daughter that I cannot keep. Searching for an alternative I find the boxes. About 12 varities of pancakes, brownies and chocolate chip muffins. O chooses the chocolate chip muffin and I am lovin' that idea. All we need to do is get a muffin tin and we are done. A couple of bows and ribbons some lights and ornaments and we are outta there. This Walmart is the mexican version of a Super Walmart or at least I assume it is, I've never been to a Super Walmant. It's got everything from Chispas to car parts, I'm sure they've got muffin tins. A very nice lady took us to find them and guess what. They don't have muffin tins! Muffins not a huge hit in Mexcio, though I must say the very best muffin I have ever eaten is made right here in Cabo, maybe they are so good no one even attmepts to compete with the Cabo apple walnut muffin. I dunno something, no muffin tins, but they did have bread tins and that would work fine enough. My patience wearing thin we grab some decorating stuff and blow that joint, with a wing, a prayer and a pan! (Why do I keep doing that?) Felize Navidad we are INTO it. I don't have a christmas song in sight and I can't remember past the refrain how any of them go so we skip that part too. We don't have a tree, because I'm apparently boycotting the caged Christmas tree but more it's just that I'm cheap and lazy and don't want to deal with it. We decide to decorate the inside of the never-been-used-fireplace instead. The beauty of my three year old is that all this is so new that any thing I throw at her she's into, no preconcieved notions of silly christmas cookies and lame christmas trees. We're decorating the whole fireplace Yah! Now that's one chute Santa's not going to miss and who can resist a little christmas banana chocolate chip muffin bread thingy with a burnt top, because I can't control the heat on my oven. Yah! It's christmas and we are lovin' it!!! O helped mix and stir that girl loves to bake, I swear when she gets older we are going into business she does the bakin' and I do the cookin' for as much fun as we had together on this day I am so in for that venture! Check out her before and after burnt banana muffin bread thingy, it's...amazing. It's not your usual tradtion I'm making this #%@ up as I go along. But thanks to my daughter and a serious need for bonding we began a few of our own traditions. Who knows if we'll reinstate the burnt banana muffin bread thingy and firplace decorating next year but I will look back at this day fondly when remembering our first Christmas in Cabo.
Feliz Navidad everyone! Don't forget thank God everyday for your gift of friends and family and our traditions that unite us even when we're gone. Love to all. a&o