Christmas Traditions…Bah Humbug?


“Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

I’m not one for holding too many traditions. We had a Christmas tree until Cory graduated from high school, then we ditched the live tree mainly because we ran out of room on our property to replant our Christmas trees.  My Christmas tree ornaments, which I so carefully bought over many years, are still stored in our garage in the states. Bah Humbug, some may say, but, honestly it simplified my life and I could concentrate on the really important aspects of the Christmas holidays like visiting family and friends and baking cookies.

Below is my Bah Humbug list of Christmas traditions we’ve discarded for a simpler life, or we have been forced to discard because we live on a tropical island far from the mainstream:

1. Presents: I used to make all my Christmas gifts. Each year I had a new theme: batik, gift baskets, homemade dog and cat biscuits, those little mason jars filled with layers of brownie mix or hot chocolate, homemade jams, Scherenschnitte pictures and frames,        which means paper cutting in German, watercolor paintings, and gift bags from our travels around the world. Now, I bake cookies and give them to all our friends and neighbors on Ometepe Island. It is a real treat because most of my friends don’t have ovens and ( if you can believe this) they have never eaten a chocolate chip cookie.

2. Shopping: I was never one for going to the malls in December, and I only attended one Black Friday event. The invention of internet shopping became my sole way to shop for Christmas presents. I love Amazon, but even that is something I can only dream about in Nicaragua. 

3. Decorating the house for Christmas: Oh, the collection of snowmen, those little ceramic Christmas trees, nativity scenes, wreaths, and hopelessly tangled Christmas lights and icicles I have given away in yard sales. This year, my 10-year-old friend, Lauren, made me a wreath to hang on my door out of Styrofoam cups. Since I wanted something a little twinkly to add beside the wreath, I took four used rum bottles, steamed the labels off, added some water, green and red food coloring, and set them on my porch railing beside the hanging wreath. It adds a festive touch to my entrance when the tropical sun shines through them. However, it confuses my hummingbirds. They’ve been buzzing around the red bottles with a puzzled and very determined look.

4. Christmas cards: I gave up that tradition long ago when the cost of a stamp was more than a small homemade gift. We don’t have mail delivery on the island, so that settles any thought of buying Christmas cards… which I’ve never seen here anyway.

5. Trips to see the Christmas lights: At the Bristol Motor Speedway, they have a fantastic collection of Christmas lights and scenes. What made it so cool was that we could drive our car around the speedway to see all the light displays. Now, very few homes have Christmas lights, and the ones that do are only lit up for a short period because 1. Electricity is expensive here 2. We don’t want to take our motorcycle out after dark because there are too many obstacles on the dirt paths and the few paved roads. 3. When electric demand is high, those who have the power ( literally) ration our usage. For example, there was a huge techno concert the other night. The surrounding towns were cut-off from electricity so the techno concert could go on without missing an eardrum shattering beat.
speedway in lights

Ometepe Island still maintains its simplified Christmas traditions. Here are a few.

Church is still very important. The Virgin Mary statue is paraded around town for La Purisma for the first eight days of December accompanied by loud firecrackers and pipe bombs.
IMG_0685Nativity scenes abound…but where is baby Jesus? Traditionally, the manger is empty until Christmas Eve, then baby Jesus is tenderly placed in the manger.
IMG_0684Traditional handmade gifts are given…twig brooms, arts and crafts, fans, hats to shade one from the tropical sun, cloth dolls, handmade baskets and toys, and always lots of fruits.
IMG_0681Nacatamales..the traditional midnight Christmas Eve dinner.
IMG_0786Beautiful Christmas cakes adorn special parties.
IMG_0712Gift giving is traditional, and the gifts are usually given at midnight on Christmas Eve, but they open their gifts in private because they don’t want to embarrass the humble gift giver. Below are some of the gifts we received this year…bread fruit, lots of watermelons, underwear, socks, jewelry, a Christmas wreath, and precious Pre-Columbian pottery that my friend, Mitchel, dug out of a construction site where he was working.

In return, I keep up one tradition…my annual Christmas cookies. It seems fitting to me to continue this tradition because homemade cookies are scarce in Nicaragua, and I love sharing a tradition I have held for many years with my island friends and neighbors.
IMG_0725I hope your holiday is overflowing with family, friends, and lots of sweet things this year.

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14 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions…Bah Humbug?

  1. Beautiful post Debbie! I have never in my life been to a Black Friday. I actually feel angered how Christmas has been transformed into this huge buying season. It makes me so mad. I agree, Christmas is more about celebrating love, life, family and gratefulness. Wishing you the best!!!!

  2. I am dizzy with the highly stimulated kids, gifts of questionable provenance, but delighted to be surrounded by children who seem to love me? baffles me? jeez! I love Chocolate chips??

  3. Hey Deb! We are with you %100.. Homemade is always the best .. in just about every case we can imagine:-).. I am still making some mighty tasty fudge these days and often think of you and your reactions to it. Have been using a lot of sweet potato and fresh bananas as well as the usual dried fruits. Always a big hit! I think you and Ron are some of the few that used to treat it as food though :-). Do you have any way of getting packages from the states?
    Best of everything TOM

    • Feliz Navidad, Tom and Marsha. Are you putting sweet potatoes in your fudge? Oh, we wish we had some of your delicious fudge now. Yep! The only way to treat your fudge is like mouthwatering food. I wish we had a way to get packages from the states. Some people do it, but rarely do things get here in one piece. If you were sending your fudge, I’m sure we’d just get a few crumbs in the package. haha

      • Ola
        Yes ,many batches ago I experimented with some shredded sweet potato as well as really ripe bananas in the initial cook.. wow wee zowee! This gives a whole new meaning to mouthwatering! The texture and subtle ” can’t put you finger on it” flavor is really a treat to share… drop by now and then and I will give you a first hand demonstration :-). Even once I mention the extra ingredients it usually takes two or three more pieces to really sink in… “oh yeah, that is sweet potato!”

        So nice to see you doing well. We loved the house tour from an earlier post!

        Best of everything TOM

  4. Very sweet…and you’re right, Nicaraguans have a simplicity and basic understanding of Christmas priorities we North Americans could really learn from. You and Ron do a great job of fitting in and contributing as usual. Feliz Navidad!

  5. Deb! I’m pretty sure you’re very popular for your chocolate chip cookies, We Nicaraguans love American sweets

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