Expats Holiday Traditions in La Paz

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By Susan Fogel

Young or old, the year-end holidays have a way of taking over our lives. Memories of Christmas past. The retelling of the miracle oil that lasted for eight days warms our hearts. The images of a perfect Martha Stewart-like holiday assault us.

Be jolly! Find the perfect gift! Create memories!

Whether you are waiting for eight tiny reindeer or lighting eight little candles, the pressure mounts as the days dwindle and the year ends.

We asked some of our year-round expat friends to tell us a little about their holiday celebrations.

Donating to charities and food banks, buying gifts for local kids, rescuing sad and lonely dogs and serving up a holiday dinner with all the trimmings are all things that our local friends have done and continue to do.

Those of us that have so much are compelled to share.

Here are a few of the responses we received from friends who have lived here as few as 2 years and as long as 12, to share their traditions new and old.

Jim and Rebecca MacDonald arrived in their new home on December 31, 2016 and that very same night, frightened by the New Year’s Eve fireworks, a stray dog ran in into their house. A futile search for the owner meant that they fostered the dog and then found him a forever home in Seattle. The following Christmas Day as they headed to the beach, they encountered and rescued a scared and skinny dog. After bringing her back to health, that doggie went off to a loving home in British Columbia. Says Rebecca “… I think that we already know what we are getting for Christmas this year…”

Rebecca and Jim do not give each other gifts. As they did back in California, they take a hike on Christmas Day. They enjoy a pleasant quiet day together. The difference for them now is that they take their hike in flip-flops and shorts on a deserted beach with as many dogs that have “adopted” them. And like all our respondents, they cherish the time with each other, their friends, and make sure to donate to the less fortunate of La Paz.

Being truly party animals, the MacDonalds spend New Year’s Eve watching the event on TV with their dogs.

Rick and Pat Shannon have lived in the home they built in Colina del Sol for 12 years. Their house was not quite complete for their first Christmas. Their builder ran a 300-foot heavy duty extension cord to their house so that they could enjoy the holiday with their kids.

“Back in Colorado,” Rick says, “…We strung 3500-5000 lights on the house and pine trees, we still decorate inside and out, but we have scaled back on the lighting…”

Pat and Rick have carried on with their tradition of having Chinese food on Christmas Eve. Pat drapes her indoor plants with ornaments. They both wrap presents, and their cats love to steal and play with the glittery papers.

The Shannons say that Christmas here is much like the US with the hustle and bustle. But they also enjoy the pageantry and the posadas of La Paz.

And one year they both donned Santa suits and distributed presents in the barrios and at the women’s shelter.

I hear it told that Pat makes a mean frozen pumpkin ice cream pie.

Jim England and Doug Pollow spent their first Christmas together in the frozen north and decided that the cold and snow was not for them. Since then they have celebrated Christmas here in El Centenario. On their first Christmas in El Centenario, Jim and Doug celebrated the 24th at dinner with friends and hosted a Christmas Day brunch at home for more friends. “A Christmas tree is a must,” says England. He goes on to say that, “Gift giving is different. We pay year end bonuses to all of the people that helped us over the year.” Like many of our citizens, Doug and Jim donate cash to the Amigos de Navidad dinner. They serve a lovely dinner to less fortunate families here in the village.

New Year’s Eve is spent at dinner with friends at R Place Restaurant on the beach.

Andrea (Andi) Maynes has lived in El Centenario permanently for three years. She visits her children in the US early in December but returns home to celebrate Christmas here.

Andi decorates the house inside and out. Christmas Eve is one of her favorite nights of the year. She likes to have a small group of friends over and invites them to bring their favorite nibbles and a gift for the “Dirty Santa” or “Yankee Swap” gift exchange. Hmmm, Andi, we need more info on those games!

Having spent Christmas in Peru, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and here, Andi has this take on the holiday:

“I usually have dinner with friends on Christmas day either at one of their homes or at a restaurant if one is serving dinner. The idea of being together rather than where we are is the most important part of Christmas to me.”

Andi says that her attitude toward the holiday has not changed, and that the date the day is celebrated is not as important as the who she spends the holiday with.

One of the things Andi likes to make is Christmas cookies chased with eggnog. Eggnog as we Norteños know it, is not always available. A lighter but more potent substitute is Rompope.

Thank you to our wonderful Baja Citizens that responded to our questions.

We wish all of you a wonderful, peaceful holiday season. We hope that your pleasures are many, and your weight gain is minimal!

Susan Fogel is a retired real estate agent. She spends her days writing, creating beautiful garments, and collecting shells.

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