This is my first holiday season away from home and it’s interesting to experience another family’s traditions, especially when you can’t understand half of what they are saying. Here are some observations from my very first “Venezuelan Christmas” in Boca Raton, Florida with Alejandro’s family. I will now attempt to recap their Christmas-eve celebration.
Stage one: Arguing over Appetizers
Like all siblings, Alejandro and his brother like to discuss their ideas (read: argue). They both have very domineering conversation techniques and I think they both assumed that the other was disagreeing with them. Maybe it was the wine, but it took them about an hour and a half of discord to realize they had same opinion the entire time.
At my house people open gifts one by one while everyone watches. It’s a nerve-wracking process. Here it’s more of a free-for-all, you give your gifts to people, wait for their reaction, kiss thanks and move on to the next person all while everyone else is doing the same. I’m happy to report everyone at least pretended to like the gifts I gave them.
Apparently the chorizo
I smuggled from Spain that I gave to Alejandro’s dad is made from pigs that were only fed acorns and that makes it awesome.
Stage Three: Dinner
Traveling around Spain should have prepared me for late dinners but here we eat even later–– I’m lucky if we’re setting the table by 10 pm. But I have to admit although I am always slightly sleepy, the meals are worth the wait. Christmas dinner included home-made Pan de Jamon and hand-made (but purchased) Hayacas, a traditional Venezuelan dish that’s kind of like a tamale but it’s packed with pork, chicken, olives, raisins and more.
A dinner with Alejandro’s family is never complete without my nightly ritual of intently listening and smiling. I have a basic comprehension of Spanish but Venezuelans speak incredibly quick. One time Alejandro’s step-mom told a 5-minute story speaking so fast that I had to stop myself from laughing because I could not discern a single word she said. I stick to murmuring a “si,” and “muy rico,” between bites. When I am feeling brave I chime in with a “yo tambien.”
Stage 3: Change into Jim-Jams and Drink
This is a pretty self-explanatory time when the men drink whiskey and I hang out in my pajamas.
Overall it was a very different yet similar to what I am used to at home. Many thanks to Skype for letting me virtually drop in on my own family today. Up next is “Venezuelan New Year’s Eve” where I know from experience that no one goes to bed until after the first breakfast of the new year. Training starts now.