Or “Our First Cuenca Christmas”
We entered into the holiday season with a tiny bit of trepidation, not knowing how homesick or culture-shocked we might be spending our first Christmas away from family, church home, Alaska, the US, etc. We are very pleased to report that although we certainly did miss our family and friends, there was quite a bit we didn’t miss at all.
After 29 years of juggling holiday events at school, home and church, this Christmas was considerably less involved, although, as you will read, not without its activities – some of which were brand new and exciting. In our retirement, Los Ganos de Cuenca have kept quite busy.
Often it was quite difficult to remember that it was December and Christmas was approaching because in the southern hemisphere we just observed our summer solstice. But because Cuenca is only 200 miles south of the equator, December 21st didn’t seem all that different from November or October 21st to us. The sun still rises around 6 am and sets around 6 pm. And at elevation 8200 ft, it is usually cool (low 50’s F) in the morning and evening and warm (70’s F) during midday.
But don’t let the weather or season fool you. Christmas is BIG here! We saw Christmas decorations displayed as early as the beginning of November. Of course, our own decorations took about 5 minutes to erect and were put up only five days before Christmas!
As the season progressed, more and more decorations appeared. One evening, we took a “tour” of Cuenca’s Christmas Lights. Take a look.
No real trees are used in any decorations as far as we can see! But they are beautiful and unique nonetheless. Click on any of these thumbnail pictures to see a bigger image.
But the prize for the most unique and largest community decoration in the City of Cuenca goes to the nativity scene in Otorongo Plaza. During the day, the display looks like Mary and Joseph just visited the folks at Star Trek, but at night with all the lights ablaze, it is quite impressive.
Rest assured that the Ganos have been “doing” as well as looking. We are both members of the Cuenca International Chorale and Ensemble which had its premier concert in the Old Cathedral here in Cuenca on Monday, December 22.
We attended the organizational meeting for the Chorale on the first day we arrived in Cuenca back in the beginning of October and have been involved in rehearsals ever since. We would say that the concert “A Christmas to Remember” was a huge success as we performed to a standing room only crowd.
If you have read other posts from this blog, you already know that parades are a big part of the life of Cuenca and all of Ecuador. But there is none bigger or more important that the “Pase del Nino Viajero” or the Passing of the Traveling Child. Virtually all communities and neighborhoods participate in one or more Pase del Nino parades which is a mixture of Catholic and indigenous traditions. The carrying of the baby Jesus is only one part of the parades that occur anytime between the beginning of Advent and Mardi Gras.
Cuenca’s version of this parade on Christmas Eve day is the Granddaddy of them all. Eight or more hours in length, 40,000 participants and even more spectators make for a full day of color, sound, movement, flowers, fruits and vegetables, live animals, roasted animals, floats on truck beds, elaborate costumes and lots and lots of children. We were able to watch some of the parade from the second floor windows and balcony of Cuenca Christian Church where we worship and serve. We enjoyed cappuccinos and other snacks as our church family watched the parade together. Take a look at some of what we saw.
Here are a couple of links to short video footage that we took of the parade.
In case you didn’t catch the guy in the second video who was carrying a whole chancho (roasted pig) on his shoulders, here’s a still picture of it.
After all this excitement, Christmas day was pretty low key. We didn’t exchange gifts with each other but made sure to remember the security guards, custodian and administrator of our building. We also live next door to the most lovely family with three darling girls. It was fun to buy them a few treats and doodads.
On Christmas Day, Los Ganos de Cuenca enjoyed a meal at Hotel Victoria. Don’t we look relaxed?
Next time, some pictures and descriptions of recent road trips.
What we’ve learned: Say “yes” when someone invites you to be in a parade. I think this is a life lesson!
What we need to learn: While participating in a parade, try to avoid the position in front of a band with an over zealous bass drum player!