To me, Christmas is all about being and laughing with family. For the last twenty years, we all meet on Christmas Eve, which is the Venezuelan tradition, to share the traditional dishes of the Venezuelan Christmas: Hallacas, pernil, pan de jamon and many others. Hallaca is tamal-looking thing, wrapped in plantain leaves and made of corn flour which contains a stew of chicken, pork (lots of fat!) and many other ingredients, some of which vary regionally and even from family to family. I have always found hallacas to be quite symbolic of that puzzle that is our Venezuela, among its ingredients you can even find three or four items that are imported and not produced locally.
After dinner and a few drinks, laughing and singing (and dancing when we were younger!) we exchange gifts in a somewhat chaotic affair since there are quite a bit of siblings and their descendants. For the last twenty years or so, we have stayed all night at one place, originally the house where I used to live outside of Caracas. After staying up late, singing, laughing, talking, dancing and even watching some dumb program on TV to the early hours, we would sleep in couches, three to a bed, lounge chairs and the kids would camp out in the garden. In the morning, we would all see the young kids open their Niño Jesus presents. Afterwards, very tired, we would have a full breakfast with arepas, cheese, croissants and the like, before we would go home to rest from the marathon.
This year there will be fewer of us. Some have emigrated in what appears to be an irreversible trend. Not only some siblings, but even more from the next generation. Others have left on vacation outside the country. Through the magic of technology, we will use webcams to watch each other open presents wherever they are. There will be no all nighter either, there are no kids left who still believe in Niño Jesus to watch open the presents in the morning.
Every year in the morning I would think this was the last year I would stay up, but I would always forget it the next year. I guess this time I will miss the all nighter, and the arepas in the morning too, but mostly, I will just miss those that are not here…because Christmas is less Christmas without all of them here…
Merry Christmas to all!