Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Navidad!

Feliz Navidad Todos y Dios los bendiga! Laura and I had an awesome opportunity to attend a traditional Dominican Christmas Celebration this past Dec 24.  We have become very close friends with our Dominican Lawyer and her husband (who is also our building contractor!) and we spent the day with them in preparation of the fiesta that night.  Yamilka and Francis always have a traditional Navidad with their closest family and some friends.  This year Francis and his brother Miguel organized the festivities by preparing the farm they own with a new structure.  The small casita was built out of local materials gathered from the farm, smaller trees make up the roof support and larger trees make up the columns.  The roof is put on using hammer and nail and has been built this way for generations; a "canas" roof or palm leaf is very easy to apply and keeps everyone dry for many years.

We are going to build a similar structure on our project, only it will be slightly larger than this one.
During the day the brothers had contracted a local friend to attend to the meal, a fire roasted pig.  The 100 lb pig is butchered in the morning and then hung on a green pole; held on with wire.  Then the pig is slowly roasted over an open pit fire all day.  The process takes about 8 hours to fully cook a pig, talking as a chef though, this one was definitely well-done!  Not surprising though as this is typical of roasted meat on the island, cooking it thoroughly is very important here as animals are not always raised with the same standards we may enjoy in North America.  After the pig was cooked we watched as the chef prepared our pig for transport, placing the pig on a clean piece of plastic sheet and then dividing it up into manageable pieces with a very sharp machete!  From my perspective this was just incredible as each blow with the machete went right through the animal cleanly.  Three of us then gathered up the ends of the plastic sheet and lifted the pig up and carried it into the back of our waiting jeep, onto clean cardboard, we closed the back of the jeep and headed back to the apartment to prep our dinner.  The pig was so hot the rear window of the jeep steamed up quickly and the heat radiated throughout the jeep, smells of sweet smoke and the roasted meat tempted everyone to try a little piece of loin right there on the spot, wow!


  Our Dominican friends insisted I gather my knives and use my culinary skills to separate the animal from his bones, I jumped right in and soon a bag of bones and about forty pounds of roasted pork was separated nicely.  The rest of the meal consisted of a typical array of Dominican Foods from "moro de guandules" (rice with spices and chick peas)  potato salad, coleslaw salad ( more like regular salad only no sauces and made from cabbage) Dominican bread (like pita) and desserts.  The family trickled in to the fiesta as the evening wore on and finally by 9:30 everyone had arrived; finally!  I was starving!

Yamilka gave a prayer and blessing for our gathering in Spanish, (I actually understood most of it!) then we all bellied up to the buffet line and filled our plates.  The food was amazing and the experience was one that we will never forget; even with cultural differences and significant alternatives to the way we might celebrate a traditional Christmas Dinner, we found the nature of the event was entirely centered on the relationships within the family.  How the families involved each other and their children and genuinely created an environment of love within the room.  Laura and I watched and listened (trying to understand as much as we could with our limited Spanish!) as we participated with this family's Christmas.  After the dinner was over, and yes, only 20 minutes of madness to consume food here as it is in Canada, we relaxed a bit with the conversation never even skipping a beat throughout the meal!  They began a gift opening soon after and the eight children at the fiesta enjoyed a couple of frenzied minutes of paper tearing and excited banter between them; the parents all watching intensely as their children received each gift.  Parents only gave to their children and nothing to themselves, although this might have been traditional, we did not know for sure.  After the gifts were opened it was near 11 pm and we excused ourselves and went home with everyone telling us it was very early and the fiesta was just starting!  I must be getting old.

Thoughts from Laura

Christmas day brought us to another Canadian missionary's home for the traditional turkey dinner and games day. First sharing tears for the family missed in Canada, we soon began working together to lift each other up and encourage each other throughout this day. It was hard for us, but thank the Lord that we weren't the only ones that needed the others. I believe that God kept them here in the country for us and vice versa. We celebrated the Lord's birth together with other friends and missionaries. That's what is important.
Watching the news this morning, there was a broadcast about young teen girls who video tape and air on the internet their "haul" they received this Christmas. My stomach started to turn as there is so much more to Christmas than what we get given to us. I felt so sad for those girls as they don't even realize the true meaning of this festive time. We are to celebrate The Only Gift that matters, not stuff. Sitting down to the beautiful 2 celebratory meals we received made us think of the people who were literally just down the road from our feast. Some with just the beans are rice that were given to them, some with nothing. Humility in this season has gone the way of the dodo. Yet Christ came to us with nothing but humility. Being born in a barn and with straw for warmth. This is the King of Kings showing us how we need to be. Come before Him and each other. Heirs in Christ yet humble servants with thankful hearts. God, help us never to commercialize this time of remembering in our hearts.

2 Cor 10:17-18
17 But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."   18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
NIV


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