Friday, January 29, 2010

The Holidays

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Day of the Three Kings.

I didn’t realize that Christmas was coming up until around early December when one of the houses I walk past frequently put up Christmas lights. Eventually some of the stores put in small fake Christmas trees, a few of the store mannequins had scarves and winter hats on (even though it has been in the 90’s here, with a heat index of over 100 lately), but other than that, they holiday season was hardly noticeable. And I loved it. I’ve never been much of a holiday person. The 1-2month long stressfest in the US far outweighs a few days of fun in my opinion. The only good part is spending time with relatives I otherwise don’t see very often. Apart from that, I’d love to give all of the winter holidays a big adios.

Here, the only day that is really a big deal is Christmas eve. Some communities have big community parties, dances, plays, etc, but Campo 9 is very dowdy on the party front. People just get together with their families. Everyone had a big dinner, stays up until midnight, sets off a million and one fire crackers, and then goes to bed. Christmas day is probably also more family time and a big lunch/dinner. New Year’s Eve is like a smaller less popular version of Christmas Eve, aka get together with friends and family, stay up until midnight, set off firecrackers, etc. A few days after Christmas is the day of the three kings, which I think is when gifts are exchanged at least with the small children. I didn’t spend this day with my host family, so I don’t really know if they did or not. At the very least, when I did go back to my host family’s house, Nati didn’t bombard me with all of her new knick-knacks, so she couldn’t have received anything too large.

For me, the only day I did anything special was on Christmas Eve, when I invited a few volunteers over to Carly’s house for an early dinner. Carly was on vacation at the time, so I was living at her house taking care of Luna. I made chili, corn bread, and apple pie. The other volunteers brought lemon meringue pie, curry carrots, and a salad. We were all stuffed to the gills. I have to laugh every time a Paraguayan tells me I’m too fat to be a vegetarian…If only they knew.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Just before Thanksgiving, the niece, Katary was living my host family got married and I was invited to the ceremony.

• There was a ring-bearer boy and a flower girl, but they didn’t walk down the aisle or actually participate in the ceremony in any way, they just stood for pictures.
• There was a group of young girls, dressed in a similar shade hot pink that appeared to be the brides maids, but they didn’t stand at the front of the church in a line like we are used to. Except for the maid of honor, who served as a witness when the bride and groom signed their marriage license, the bride’s maids didn’t participate in the ceremony
• I didn’t notice any groomsmen
• When the bride walked down the aisle, there was no music or wedding march. She was also not preceded by anyone, whereas our brides follow after the bridesmaids and groomsmen and usually their parents, maybe the flower girl etc. Actually, as the bride walked to the front of the church in silence, Marcia and Anibal followed her. I came with them, so I also ended up following the bride into the church. Knowing Marcia, following the bride was probably a significant gesture, but I don’t understand why she would have that privilege above Katary’s parents.
• The ceremony was pretty quick, unless you consider that it started about 2.5 hours after I was told it would. I was told the ceremony would start at 7pm. It actually began around 9:30 ish. We went to the reception around 10:30pm.

(Reception Hall)

• Overall the wedding ceremony made me feel like someone had taken a picture of a wedding in the US, but hadn’t bothered to explain any of the elements. I was disappointed with the lack of unique Paraguay traditions in the wedding ceremony.

• Few people attended the in church portion of the festivities, however there were a large number of people at the reception.
• The new couple welcomed their guests into the reception hall, as opposed to the bride and groom being that last ones to arrive, which seems to be more common in the US. Also they went around to each table and took a picture with every group of guests once they were seated.
• After getting to the reception hall around 10:30 or 11pm we had to wait for another hour or so for all of the guests to arrive to get appetizers, which was sliced sausages with mandioca served to each table.

• Once people were seated at their table they stayed there; they didn’t mingle with any of the other guests.
• The bride and groom had their first dance and then a few other people joined in until appetizers were served and everyone took their seat again.
• Dinner was buffet style and very tasty. They served the hard-boiled eggs of a very small breed of chicken, best eggs I’ve ever had.
• Instead of forming a line so that everyone could pass by the buffet table easily, everyone just mobbed it. I really felt uncomfortable pushing people at a wedding, it didn’t seem polite, but clearly they didn’t mind at all.
• Oh oh, people wore white! Oooo, big US no no.

(Anibal, Marcia, and Nati)

• Marcia, Anibal, and Nati left right after dinner and didn’t wait for cake. Katary seemed unhappy that they were going to leave early, so I stayed for the throwing of the bouquet, and the cake string pulling ceremony. This is similar to the tradition of baking a trinket into a cake and the person whose slice contains the trinket is going to be the next one to get married, have a baby, good luck, w/e. Here however, they are little ribbons sticking out of the bottom of the cake. Attached to the ribbons was a ring. All of the single ladies take a ribbon and pull to see who had the ribbon with the ring attached. I left after this part, not staying for cake, and got home around 2:30am.

• As with the wedding ceremony, I was surprised the reception also felt so USy. I was hoping there would be some Paraguay specific ceremonies or customs, but what I saw was a rehashing of US style traditions. Perhaps after the cake cutting there was something more Paraguayan, but I just could not stick it out that long.