Since we got to spend two amazing weeks with my family here over Christmas, I wanted to go back and share a few stories and highlights. This one, in particular, caused one 8 year old Hudsonville boy to confess, “this was the best Christmas ever.”
Guatemalans love fireworks. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, name it – fireworks. When work teams arrive in Zone 3, the community often greets members with “ametralladoras” or machine gun fireworks. You can imagine what that sounds like. In fact, one work team friend thought it was a gun and infamously pulled a duck and cover. Our Guatemalan friends thought that was hilarious.
This love for fireworks culminates at Christmas and New Years. On Christmas Eve, families often go to church late then gather at someone’s house. They wait for the clock to strike 12 then head outside both to watch the magnificent firework display and to light off their own. If you have a good vantage point you can see an impressive 4th of July style fireworks show in every direction. The sky lights up. After about a half an hour or 45 minutes, families make their way back inside where they eat Christmas tamales and open presents. Eventually, people make it to bed with ears still ringing.
But, don’t worry, there are more fireworks – Christmas day at noon and 6pm and the whole deal repeated New Year’s Eve.
Guatemalans know how to welcome baby Jesus!
One thing I appreciate about Guatemala is that it has a way to put the grit of real life back into things that we normally like to sanitize and whitewash. That stable was dirty, stinky, and probably pretty noisy. I bet those angels lit up the sky too. Who knows, maybe a shepherd’s lamp even lit a bit of straw on fire for the first recorded incident of fireworks to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Be thankful no one got (seriously) hurt. And plan a trip for next Christmas so you can understand the thrill my nephew, husband, and a certain work team leader found in celebrating navidad estilo chapin!