Happy Noche Buena to all. Noche Buena, good night, is the big thing here. The 24th of December. Leading up to today, many-a-pigs were fattened, houses painted and apples imported from America.
One of you (my loyal readers) lamented about the crazy American holiday season and remarked that you were sure that my experience here was much different and that the people (Dominicans) remember the REAL meaning of Christmas.
*in training, another PCV taught me that buuuuuuueno is a good word to use when you don't really want to say much more about the subject or something was said that is far from the truth.
So back to Noche Buena. Mom's in town, so we took her to the barrio for the afternoon. With a house full of the regulars-- muchachos & guys our age, different visitors stopped by, bringing gifts of food-- a fried hunk of pig, spaghetti, a special bread sold only at Christmas, a half an apple, a few grapes, a few gum drops, some chicken. I meanwhile made brownies in order to have something to share. An unknown treat here that, unlike most American foods I cook, people always love.
Sitting on the receiving end of gifts of food was quite special. (And in reality, I am almost always on the receiving end in this country!)
The Pig: Pig's the big thing to eat for Christmas. There's been quite a buzz the past few weeks as people have been fattenin' 'em up for the big day. I often heard that "eso es para el 24" (that one's for the 24th)!(un) Fortunately, we missed the mass killing, as we were busy enjoying the Punta Cana beach, kayaks, catamaran and pool.
The House Paint: Don't ask me, people just like to repaint the outside of their houses for Christmas. A woman I was visiting with told me she hates Christmas this year because she doesn't have the money to repaint her house.
Apples: In a world of locally grown pineapple, passionfruit, melon, oranges, mangos, papaya, bananas, and ton of other amazing tropical fruits you've never heard of, people get REALLY excited about red delicious apples imported from America, that have often sat in a cardbaord box or the sun for a day or two too long. They're more expensive than the other fruits, but coveted, especially this time of year. Fruit stands all over hang them decorativly by the stem and people by them for Noche Buena.
I share these tidbits of what I have seen of a Dominican Noche Buena with you with hopes that you realize that I am just pulling out what seems noteworthy & odd. I love this place, I love these people and I appreciate their traditions, but at the same time, I laugh too. Some things seem bizarre to me, and those are what I have highlighted here. I could have just as easily spent my words on how this entire month (and especially today & tomorrow) is about being with family, enjoying life, making things beautiful and eating good food. When it's put that way, we don't seem that different.
After several hours in our barrio, we moved onto visit Maria, the town mayor, whom I lived with for 3 months. She brought us into her formal living room and treated us like special guests. The party was hopping with about 30 people, complete with ear-blowing music, flowing alcohol, 2 pigs cooked on a spit and that oh-so-special Christmas bread. Maria's 80 year-old father begged me to eat a piece of pig, then gave us all a cheap, sweet red wine that most everyone seemed to be drunk on. Mom danced a few merengues, then we ate more pig (ok, I didn't. I don't eat pig here) & spaghetti and received gifts of apples.
Now we're back at Punta Cana with a pineapple that we've converted into a Christmas tree, carols over the internet and bathing suits drying in preparation for tomorrow.
Si, es una noche buena.