Monday, January 18, 2010

Christmas in Cusco

Growing up I couldn’t imagine a Christmas without snow. I loved the holiday season and couldn’t wait for the first snow fall. As I got older Christmas lost the magic. It was all about buying unnecessary presents and completely commercial. Without young children in my family it was just another day.
The last four years I have been in a different country for Christmas. It has had a different meaning for me. I have escaped the commercialization of western society. My first Christmas abroad was in a desert Oasis in Egypt. Being Muslim in Egypt they don’t even celebrate Christmas. I celebrated with my boyfriend at the time and a Jewish Australian kid by having a huge Indian meal. Christmas day my stomach was not agreeing with the Indian. To cure this I downed a litre of mango juice, which found me behind any clump of dirt in the barren desert I could find as I shat liquid green. That was the only Christmas present I received that year.
The last three years have been in Latin America, countries where Christmas is celebrated but with less commercialization, more focus on religion and a lot of focus on fiestas. Fireworks are set off throughout the month of December. Christmas lights and point zetas take over the central squares, carnivals and Christmas fairs line the streets. Families come together to rejoice and let loose in festive flair.
In most of the world Christmas is celebrated on Dec 24th, this Christmas Eve in Cusco, Peru, I noticed from my balcony that there was a huge line of Indian women and children starting from my hotel and curving down the street. I was touched to find out the hotel was giving free bread and hot chocolate to the poor. As well the Plaza del Armas was turned into a huge Christmas and artesian market.
That evening I decided to treat myself to a bottle of wine which led to another during dinner with a Peruvian friend. I was in such good festive spirits that I felt the need to spread the Christmas cheer to everyone on the street, telling them Feliz noche Buena and Feliz navidad. I even bought a street kid some chocolate and picked up another and swung him around. Alright so at this point Christmas cheer was also drunken cheer. I was delighted to find Santa Claus in Peru, with his red Santa hat, white beard, jiggly belly and Hawaiian shirt. From the rich to the poor Christmas was about having a good time. People did this by setting off fire crackers and fireworks all night. Cusco is in a valley surrounded by mountains with neighbourhoods crawling up the hills, on Christmas Eve at midnight from a neighbourhood high up above the city, there was an unreal sight. It looked like a scene from the war but instead of bombs fireworks were set off from all corners of the city
I don’t know what it is about Christmas in another country; perhaps the new and unknown bring back the excitement and magic of Christmas to me. Maybe one day when I am older I will be dreaming of a white Christmas again. Until then, foreign lands, sunny beaches and fiestas are where I will be. Feliz Navidad.

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