I am calling this a “reflection” in the sense of being in front of a mirror. This mirror is reflecting to you the mystery of how Christmas was celebrated in my household when I was a child.
It’s of no surprise to you to know that in Nicaragua, a Catholic country, Christmas is celebrated with fervor. It’s a joyous celebration, a time of sharing good food, sweet specialties and giving and receiving presents. There was much talk between parents and their children about presents that may mysteriously appear around their beds on Christmas Day, with the birth of the Baby Jesus from whom all good things were to come. As a youngster I wrote letters asking for presents not from Santa but from El Niño Dios, meaning the Child Jesus, or Baby Jesus. Would my wishes be granted?
I spent 18 Christmases in Nicaragua growing up and others while visiting my Father, after I made the United States my home. I remember 3 gifts in particular: 1) A record by the famous Spanish singer, Sarita Motiel, with her beautiful rendition of the musical “La Violetera”. We could think about it as somewhat of the Spanish version of “My Fair Lady”; 2) a doll with very blonde, perfectly coiffed hair that I called Jenny, as that would be a name fitting a White, blonde American; 3) A purple bicycle. Our neighbor Leticia, helped her daughter, Malula who also got a bike, and me learn how to ride them.
My father turned into a child at Christmas. Nothing pleased him more than seeing the tree lit up. This was an artificial tree that my mother would get out of storage, as no evergreens grow in Nicaragua. This tree was filled with lights and ornaments. The big ones, with a liquid that bubbled in a tube of glass, went down at the bottom of the tree. The small ones always went on the top. As a kid I thought this was too restrictive and as an adult I place ornaments small and large all over the tree. I do it my way, like Frank Sinatra.
Nothing gave my Father more delight than coming into his living room and seeing it beautifully decorated and Mother was more than happy to oblige.
The Nacimiento or Nativity scene was also part of the decorations. Because in Nicaragua we could not buy aluminum foil paper, my mother would ask all of our neighbors to save the silver wrapping of cigarettes and give them to her. She would fold and crush them and glue them to the frame of the Nacimiento so they could reflect the light.
On January 6th, for the Epiphany celebration, we had a procession coming out of the Cathedral with a float, which was a Nativity Scene with the 3 Wise Men. My mom, who was a terrific seamstress, would dress me as a shepherd that came to greet the Baby Jesus. I wore a very colorful skirt and scarf in my head and a tambourine. As I think about it now, I looked more like a gypsy than a shepherd. What a joy all of it that was!
To this day, even now that I live alone, I put up a Christmas tree, a smaller one than in prior years, with ornaments big and small all over the tree, as well as a small Nacimiento. What a joy it is!