January 14, 2013 by jiejie768
As Meg and I finally have returned to Ayacucho and have time on our hands, we are updating our blog with tales from when Meg’s family and the Collinses came to visit over the Christmas holidays (Dec. 22-Jan. 5). So far, we’ve told of the gift-giving trip to Chiara with Ty, Tom and Lolo in tow, the night of food and football that followed, and Part I and Part II of our Christmas Eve adventures. Here is the third and final installment of our admittedly lengthy version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas (in Ayacucho)”.
Christmas Eve, Part III: Mass, Socks and Fireworks (Oh My!)
Those of us returning from the party made it back to the apartment just in time to change and head to the 6:30 p.m. Christmas Eve mass at the church just up the hill from our place.
As I am the only non-Catholic among the 10 of us gathered, this was a key event in the holiday celebration (and one that I’ve grown accustomed to and comfortable with during my near decade of time with the Anderson family). This was the first time Meg and I had actually attended a church service in Ayacucho (the “City of 33 Churches” … really it’s quite a few more than that, even but they boast 33 to indicate one church for each year of Jesus’ life).
In true Peruvian fashion, we arrived at 6:33 p.m. fearful of being late, only to find that we were the first to arrive. During the following half hour the sanctuary filled out as one-by-one the local families arrived. We were particularly fascinated to watch as each family brought their Baby Jesus to the altar to be blessed before being placed in their Nacimientos (Nativity Scenes) back at home; in Peru, Jesus is not added to the Nativity until Christmas … kind of like how in real life he didn’t show up ’til Christmas.
The service itself was nice, if a bit hard to follow in Spanish (and I’m one of the few that actually speaks the language … though my Catholic is a bit fuzzy). But it wasn’t over long (Sacred Heart’s Father Pat would be proud), and they even sang “Cholito” to kick things off. Though I couldn’t translate the sermon word for word, I was able to pick up on the Bible readings from the birth of Jesus as well as the traditional recital of the Lord’s Prayer. I even was able to tell when things were leading to Communion and all in all felt I wasn’t any more lost than I would have been during an English Catholic Mass.
I did have to double check with Meg however, to make sure I’d heard the priest correctly when he, in turn, asked for a round of applause for the Baby Jesus, the Catholic Church and “our visitors from afar” (meaning us). I like that. As someone who grew up in an Evangelical church, I’m no stranger to clapping for Jesus, though the specific request for applause struck me (and the rest of us) as somewhat amusing.
In an unintentional, though welcome, nod to my own family’s tradition, after Mass we headed downtown for pizza at Mamma Mia (pizza is the traditional Christmas Eve fare at both my mom’s house and my Aunt Becky’s). The pizza place is another of our favorite restaurants in town, and we had a great time sharing the experience (and few new pizza selections) with family and friends. Full of pizza and getting tired after another long day, we headed back to the apartment for the day’s final project: making Christmas stockings (or as Meg’s family inexplicably refers to them: socks).
We did a Not-So-Secret-Santa style drawing for the gift exchange this year to keep gift expenses fairly low in the wake of significant travel costs. Each person would buy one large (no more than $30) gift for their NSSS person and then one small (no more than $10) gift apiece to put in each stocking (sock). In addition, Meg’s mom brought materials to make and decorate stockings (socks), and everyone was to make a stocking (sock) for their NSSS person (see photo above). My person was Tom, and I was thrilled, as anyone who didn’t appreciate a purple-and-gold themed stocking (sock) would have been pretty dissatisfied with my artistic vision. Tom, however, is a die hard Dawg fan, so we were good.
I decided to use the purple string to embroider Tom’s name into the stocking (sock) in block letters before coloring it in with a gold glitter pen. I had never embroidered before, but ever since the “T,” I’ve feel pretty good about my skills as an embroiderer. Upon finishing his name, I jazzed things up with a few fish and a “Feliz Navidad.” Kathy declared (and I wholeheartedly agree) that I was the runaway winner in the creativity department. Though that could have just been a nice way of saying “It’s the thought (and not the result) that counts.” I didn’t pry. Meg’s Nazca-line-themed stockings (socks) — she made three…one for herself, one for Lolo and one for GeGe — also were a hit.
Bill, who had the good fortune of drawing my name out of the NSSS hat, also did a bang-up job with my stocking (sock); even going so far as to have Husky paraphernalia brought from the States. Included on my stocking (sock) were two removable Husky pins and a removable Husky patch, all of which will be making an appearance on various personal articles and/or future stockings (socks).
Once the stockings (socks) were finished, it was nearly midnight. About half of our group was in bed and the other half were on the way when the fireworks started. Here in Peru, Christmas itself (according to GeGe) isn’t a huge deal, but midnight on Christmas Eve is. Many families have their big meal at that time before heading off to Midnight Mass. Also, as with every major/minor/other event in Ayacucho, they set off fireworks. Meg and I were expecting a large-scale fireworks show based out of the city center, which is visible from our kitchen window and roof. The large-scale show never took place, but what did happen was arguably more impressive.
Starting at our kitchen window, and quickly moving to the roof, those of us still awake took in an awe-inspiring scene. Instead of one central show, it seemed that literally every family in town was setting off their own private supply of bottle-rockets, fire crackers, Roman candles and other such devices. The result was a never-ending sequence of bangs, pops and colorful explosions lighting up the sky both near and far. It’s truly hard to express in words, but we were all pretty impressed. For about 30 minutes solid, there were no fewer than five fireworks going off somewhere in the city at any given time, all visible (and audible) from a our enviable perch atop the house where we rent our apartment. Here’s a video of the scene. The visuals aren’t great, but the audio gives you a good idea of what it was like.
As the fireworks died down, we all headed downstairs, where all but Meg and I turned in. The two of us had one remaining task: wrapping presents. It was rather quick (and enjoyable) work, but when all was said done we were an hour and a half into Christmas before hitting the hay. Thankfully, the next day was another in which we were allowed to sleep-in a bit before waking to see what Papa Noel had used to fill our carefully-crafted stockings (socks).
Stay tuned throughout the week as we tell tales of our crew leaving Ayacucho en route to Cuzco, Machu Picchu and beyond.