Wednesday, December 26, 2007

From La Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) to The Day of the Kings

Hi, faithful few. I don't know what happened to November but this month I'm only recently back from That Island We're Not Supposed to Visit.

Christmas Eve (called La Nochebuena in Mexico)is the big event of the season but fortunately the taxidrivers were working. I went across time for the annual extended family gathering at the home of the father of a friend. The first part of the event is a game of chance involving little presents. The second part, starting a little before midnight is a sumptous meal similar to a Thanksgiving dinner in the US.

First, the presents game. Each of us brought several wrapped presents. The coffee table was loaded with them as there were 15 people present - grandpa, his sister-in-law, my friend's family and her two brothers' families - all in all six young folks and nine older ones. We took turns rolling the three dice from a glass. A pair meant success meaning pick a present.

Lots of suspense as people looked at and sometimes fingered the packages. Was a big package better than a small one? Would a gift bag from a well-known shop enclose a present from the shop? But everyone recognized a wrapped chocolate bar, among the first shapes to be chosen. When all the presents had owners but were still not opened, we went five rounds more. This time anyone who rolled a pair could choose to take a presnt from someone else. At least one package changed hands twice! The last step was opening the presents. The first one I opened was a small round portable CD case. Just the thing! What did I wrap up to take? An eraser that looked like a strawberry along with a magnet on the back of a plastic piece of cheesecake, a shell necklace and more.

The meal started after each person read part of a long Christmas prayer from a piece of paper randomly assigned. I was the first, managed to do fine. The meal: smoked turkey, bacalao (cod) prepared Spanish style and meatloaf, a cranberry-like jelled salad made of cherry jello and applesauce, creamed spaghetti, wine and/or coca cola, and two scrumptious desserts, meringue topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberries and a slice of pound cake flavored with almond extract and studded with candied fruit and nuts.

All best wishes for the new year. The 12th day of Christmas, here called the Day of the Kings is the day when children get their Real Presents. A sweet-bread wreath called a rosca is traditional that day.

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