A Festive Christmas in Guatemala, a Tad Different Than North America…

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When you think of ‘Christmas’, you probably have a vision in your mind of what that includes. Maybe it’s snow, a Christmas tree, presents, egg nog and Christmas carols. How do others celebrate around the world?

Travel offers a new point of view. It shows you that what’s ‘normal’ for you is completely foreign to someone else. It teaches you a new ‘normal’ — they way it’s ‘always’ been for hundreds of thousands of people — for generations.

When you have that sort of mind-expanding realization, you’ll begin to understand why travel is so addicting.

Last year we were almost homeless but then celebrated at Laguna Bacalar Mexico. We remember wondering ‘where in the world’ we would be for Christmas in 2012. We would have never guessed that it would be so close to Mexico.)

Because we’ve already been in Pana for so long (can you believe it, 10 months now!) we know what Pana is ‘usually’ like. Now we got to see her in all her festive glory.

I thought I would share it with you with a nice little photo tour of the city. This year, Guatemala.

The Mercado

Pana’s has a good-sized daily market, but on Sundays (and sometimes Wednesdays?) market size increases.

For the Christmas season, the everyday market is bigger and better — with vendors filling up adjacent streets and offering imported items you can’t usually find.

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Gift baskets are wrapped and ready to be given away.

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Look at this baby sitting in the apples :)

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This mossy stuff, and strings of orange fruit (anyone know what it is?) are a popular holiday item.

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Mandarins are in season — 10Q for a dozen. Aaliyah is buying herself one.

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Grapes are an imported specialty item.

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This is the lady we usually buy our vegetables from.

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Lots of spices…

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Chocolate is a regular item, but I actually bought some this time… for chocolate fondue!

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There’s usually flowers at the market, but these Gerber daisies are special for the Christmas season.

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And the poinsettias (which grow naturally in Guatemala — there’s poinsettia trees all around town).

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Christmas candles

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This is colored sawdust… used for decorating. It’s the same thing they use in many of the ‘carpets’ for Semana Santa (Holy Week).

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This is the ‘pig lady’ where Greg buys menudo (pig innards) for our dog, Epic, and where he ordered 47 lbs of meat for our Christmas feast (there was 21 kids and 9 adults). There’s actually a really funny story about this… maybe I’ll tell it sometime :)

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Around Town

This is one of the kids favorite stores — the 3 Quet store (aka the $0.40 store). They were buying Christmas gifts for each other. (It was so CROWDED in the store, between people and ALL THE STUFF!!!)

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Another 3 Quet store (there’s a dozen of them in town).

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A Santa piñata

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Fireworks are a BIG deal for Christmas in Guatemala. It looked like a U.S. Fourth of July with all the firework stands around town (of course you’ll never see these fireworks for sale in the United States) :)

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Everybody loves fireworks for Christmas!

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More grapes, this time for sale in front of the liberia (paper store).             Christmas in Guatemala - 134

More fireworks, apples, marshmallows and cookies.

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On Christmas Eve, many stores put these pine needles on the floor and out in front of their shops. It’s something they also do for Semana Santa. I’ve heard it represents the palm leaves that they laid before Christ as he rode into Jerusalem.  Christmas in Guatemala - 118

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The Christmas tree in the town square. This is the second one they put up this December. The first one burnt down!

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Even Santander, Panajachel’s tourist street, got into the Christmas spirit… just a little bit.

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The People

Panajachel has lots of colorful people. I saw some familiar faces around town, and some new ones as well.

I’ve seen this cute little lady many times before.

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I actually saw this man at a party on Christmas Eve.

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Pana has it’s regular panhandlers, but I’ve never seen this woman before.

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Or him…

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Or him…

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This is how most of the traditional women carry their babies.

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Wow! Look at that herd of gringos! Hey, do I know them???

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What was Christmas like around your city?

Rachel Denning
Rachel Denning is an unassuming mother of five who never really did any international traveling until she had four children. After a second honeymoon to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, she and her husband decided to sell most of their belongings and move their family abroad.

Driving from the United States to Panama, they settled in Costa Rica for a year, until the U.S. financial market crash in 2008, when they lost their location independent income. Returning to the United States to look for work, they knew they'd be back 'out' again, having been officially bitten by the travel bug!

Despite adjustments to living a simpler life (or perhaps because of it), they were able to save enough money to move to the Dominican Republic in 2009. After six months they came back to the States once more, where they were offered employment working with a non-profit organization in India.

They spent five months living in Tamil Nadu, then returned to the States once more (to Alaska) so they could have baby number five - Atlas.

From there, they set out in April of 2011 to drive, in a veggie powered truck, from Alaska to Argentina, visiting every continental country in North and South America.

Travel is a part of their life now, and they can't imagine doing anything else. Rachel photographs and writes about their incredible family travel adventures on their website, and they also have resources that encourage others to live a deliberate life.
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