Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's beginning to look a bit like Christmas

While most of North America deals with unseasonably cold and snowy weather and the "official" winter season is only just beginning, here in Loreto Bay we too have had some cool evenings and blustery days over the past several weeks, but as I write this, the weather here has returned to ideal conditions - mid to high 20s Celsius (or mid to high 70s Fahrenheit) and calm.  Over the years I have lived here I have come to understand that the definition of "bad" weather here in Loreto is a windy day, still usually blue skies and sunny, but windy is about as bad as it gets here, apologies to those still living in the Great White North!

I begin by mention the weather because after spending most of my former life in western Canada I have a very strong connection between "normal" (cold) winter weather and the Christmas Holiday Season and so as I approach this time of year, from my perspective of living here in Loreto, the experience is different in so many ways.

But it is still Christmas, and, however jarring I may find it, many of the same iconic symbols and imagery as we North Americans are familiar with can be found here as well - sometimes with a little extra Mexican salsa added.  Next door to the Liquor store I occasionally frequent in town there is a temporary streetside vendor selling all manner of Christmas decorations and lights - even a white plastic Christmas tree, for that "not-so-traditional" look.  While a little further down the street another shop has an impressive display of the traditional
Mexican piñatas, which are a staple of any respectable Posada Navidad (Christmas Party) here, first filled with candies and small favors and then smashed to bits, usually by blindfolded kids swinging a stout stick, while everyone else stands around singing a traditional song (trust me, it's more festive than it sounds!).

The town square in Loreto has also "donned it's gay apparel" with impressively tall cone shaped "tree" and a more realistic crèche (but, I noted, no baby Jesus), as well as other civic decorations on the City Hall, and along the main road in and out of town where some of the Palm trees have been wrapped in lights as well. 

Here in Loreto Bay there are some signs of Christmas too.  New this year, the HOA has added some lighted displays in the median of the recently landscaped Paseo and a number of homes are decorated with wreaths, while some others have added strings of lights.  I have also noticed that a few Homeowners have turned their "Hi-Guys" into a miniature display area, a new idea that may become a unique Loreto Bay tradition. 

For those of you not familiar with Loreto Bay architecture a "Hi-Guy" what we call a small pass through cupboard, usually located near the front door of the house, which was originally intended as a way to deliver "room service" or other supplies into a home without the resident having to be there to receive it.  (Oh yes, and the name? - some of you may remember the old TV commercial where a guy opens the medicine cabinet door in his apartment and sees his neighbor standing on the other side saying "Hi Guy!")

Of course Christmas is not only about decorations, over the past several weeks the Loreto Bay Volunteers have been collecting donations and contributions for a Christmas Party for the children of the Internado (residential) School.  There was a gift wrapping bee for the presents they had collected or purchased, and then a few days later many of the same volunteers attended the party for the kids to join them in the excitement of the unwrapping as well.  

Which brings me to a few observations about how Christmas is celebrated here, as compared to what most of us were used, having lived in North America.  Without the focus on consumerism and commercial hype, the Christmas Holiday is much different here.  While most average kids here do look forward to getting presents, they are not inundated with TV commercials for months, building their expectations for the latest video game etc.  And the Christmas holiday, which for most people in Mexico started this week and will extend past New Year's Day, is generally speaking a more low key, family and friends oriented celebration, as opposed to the shopping and gift giving extravaganza that dominates the Holiday Season for many north of the border.

The Catholic Church, generally speaking, is also a much bigger influence on the Mexican people and their lifestyle here, with many church related events and activities, often involving kids and their families, centered around the historic Mission in town.  With the relative lack of more material distractions, I see that the church here plays a more important role in the Holiday Season than it does in many of the more secular places north of the border.

There is also somewhat of a "changing of the guard" among the Homeowners here in Loreto Bay at this time of year.  Quite a few of the residents who are here for most of the Season plan a trip back to their northern home to spend the Holidays with family and friends, and then return here again for the rest of their retreat from winter weather.  At the same time, others who are not so lucky as to be able to spend their winters here, plan a visit to their Loreto Bay home over the Holidays.  Likewise, it is also a popular time for friends and family to come to Loreto to visit Homeowners who choose to stay here over the Holidays.

So with these comings and goings, modest decorations, holiday schedules for those who work here, life in Loreto is different during the Holidays - but some things remain the same, like comfortable (if breezy) temperatures, usually blue skies, palm trees and bougainvillea blossoms.  So while it may not look a lot like Christmas, it is still a special time of year, when you are "Living Loreto".