Jane Thompson Hasenmueller
Our First Christmas in Belize
Why is Christmas always wrapped up in snow? As a child, my least favorite Christmas song on the Bing Cosby album was the one about Hawaii, because Christmas is about dashing through the snow, and jingle bells, and frosty the snowman, and Good King Wenceslas looking out at snow. How could Hawaii have Christmas without snow? Having lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the past ten years, we generally always had snow around the holidays. If nothing else, we had the cold and a warm fire. But then we moved to Belize.
I had a hard time getting into the holiday spirit because I was missing the signals, like wearing warm sweaters and boots, cooking goodies for neighbors and enchiladas on Christmas Eve, but once I bought my fake tree at the grocery store, added some lights, some found objects, and made in Belize ornaments, I started feeling the vibe. I also strung lights on the balcony. I hung our stockings from the bar cart and called it good.
Belizeans love Christmas. People strung lights and made Rum Po Po, which is similar to eggnog, but I found I like PoPo better. They also make a black cake, unfortunately never got one, though weirdly enough, last Christmas in the USA I actually made a Caribbean black cake. They are full of fruit and soaked in rum. I will definitely get my order in next year. There was a boat parade the week before Christmas, with boats decked out in lights, trees and snowmen. We gathered on a friend’s veranda to watch the parade and enjoy some Christmas cheer. On another evening, I made New Mexico green chile stew, with Hatch chile I brought back with me on my last trip to the states, and a chocolate ganache for dessert, as my gift to new friends.
But my favorite thing about Christmas here in Belize, and what finally got me fully in the Christmas spirit, occurred on Christmas Eve. We had driven down to Punta Gorda on the 22nd to visit friends whom we have invested with in their cacao farm. We spent the morning touring the farm, asking questions, seeing how things operate and meeting the manager and some workers. Then we went to lunch at Copal Tree Inn on our way back to Punta Gorda. While there, we saw a jaguarundi crossing a trail in front of us. They are incredibly elusive, so this was an amazing sight. True serendipity, and a gift in its own right. That evening, we had dinner with our friends in town, and their daughter had received an early present that day and couldn’t wait to show us. Her joy can brought out the Christmas spirit faster than anything. The next day, however, as we started the two and half hour drive back to Placencia, the true magic of Christmas hit me square in the face, as we witnessed large groups of Mayans, dressed up, carrying dishes, and baskets, and full back packs, all lined up on the road, in both directions, waiting for the busses to carry them to their families for the holiday. It was magic. I loved this more than anything the whole Christmas season.
Regardless of snow, Christmas in Belize turned out lovely. I loved celebrating with new friends, seeing all the lights around the village, and hearing the stories afterwards, because when I asked people about their holiday here, they didn’t tell me about what they got for Christmas, but who they saw and spent time with on Christmas.
While we didn’t get to return to the states for the holiday, and the Omicron variant made us cancel our January trip, we are looking forward to a trip in mid-February to celebrate with the kids and grands. Life is good.
What did you do for the holidays? Create any new traditions? I'd love to hear from you!
Peace and Joy,
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