Christmas in Paraguay is most definitely unlike any other Christmas I've ever experienced- and to be fair, this is not my first merry-go-round.
I headed back to my training site near Asuncion for a special Christmas with the host fam. I arrived on the 23rd and immediately was invited to a neighborhood party. After several hours of chat, music, and Brahma I went home feeling happy to be back 'home' for the holidays. Even more excited when I officially became a novia. :-) They say Christmas is the time of year for that sort of thing, and they would be right.
By the 24th, the day Christmas is celebrated in Paraguay, we were full of Christmas cheer. I helped construct a pesebre (manger... you know with all the animals and a little Jesus inside) out of tree limbs and freshly dug-up grass, which was my first of the Paraguayan traditions to learn. Then it was out to the back yard to kill some chickens and stoke up the brick oven. Round one of sopa paraguaya (cheesy corn bread) was out a little after noon. From there, it was off to visit several families around town. Five families through, I had so much sopa my stomach just couldn't take it, clorico (sangria with oj and tropical fruits) to the point of drowning, and new resolve in starting a New Year's diet. I had also been invited to several Christmas dinners at the stroke of mid-night. Nobody starves in Paraguay this night. Finally, I got into several close calls with an ungodly number of firework fights... why people let their children play with bombas I will never understand. Even after the mid-night city-sponsored firework show, the smoke of the city hung in the air for several hours. At about 10pm (although the tradition is typically withheld till mid-night), we opened presents at my family's house. Everyone got at least one, but certainly not the stockpile often exhibited during this season in the States. Mostly because the Day of Kings is in January and made for just such gift-giving to children. So, I received a lovely shirt from Argentina and a hair clip- yes! A big BBQ ensued directly after- the enormous meal to call in the festivities.
From mid-night on throughout the 25th, it was dancing and parties throughout Paraguay. My friends and I jumped from house to house, dancing, music, drinks, and of course more sopa. They even opened up a swimming pool at the local discoteca, so we could all experience another kind of sopa... the human soup that is beer, sweat, and lord knows what other disgusting liquids. I did NOT get in. Instead, I took refuge at nearby, hidden lake where I happily swam in the natural good ole' outdoors. The boys took the challenge of fishing, which did not work out as planned so us ladies had to make do with carne instead of pescado for dinner. Que lastima!
All in all, the best Christmas I could have ever asked for and a nice Skype chat with my family in the States to complete the package. Could you ask for more?