Leading up to it. Sad to say, the Christmas merchandise hits the shelves waaaay back in late September! UGH!!
Unlike in the USA, we don't have Christmas tree lots with fir, pine, and spruce to choose from. We don't have tree lots at all. 99.9999% of the Christmas trees here are fake because, for the most part, our 'forests' are of the eucalyptus variety. And, those fake trees cost MUCHO dinero!!! We're talking $200+ dollars for a 5ft fake tree!!! As a result, you don't see many trees erected in the living rooms of many Cuencanan homes, especially when you keep in mind the average Ecuadorian wage is only around $500 a month!
I am, however, surprised at the growing presence of trees and lights in homes since I first arrived here nearly 5 years ago. I was disappointed, then, to see how few homes were decorated with lights and/or trees compared to back home. It seems to be a growing trend both in private homes as well as civic displays.
Also, 5 years ago, there was nary a sight of Santa. Now, more images of Santa appeared this year as well as snowmen and reindeer instead of only religious scenes. I even saw one display with a reindeer leaping over a nativity scene. Hmmmm.
When I first came here, I wondered what kind of Christmas music I would hear. I think I only knew of two such as 'Feliz Navidad' and....ummmmm.....can't remember the other. So, do the Latins have their own array of classics that come out of the closet once a year? I don't think so. The music I heard played in stores was...yep...'Silent Night', 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful', and Karen Carpenter...all in their original format and English. Again, this year, even more English Christmas music seemed to be played and heard everywhere I went....'12 Days of Christmas', Bing Crosby, 'Sleighride', etc. One of the blocks in El Centro had speakers outside playing Christmas music for all the shoppers to hear for 2-3 blocks. A nice treat I thought, but I wondered how the guests in hotel rooms felt about it if they were trying to take an afternoon nap?
What about all the feverish gift shopping, pushing and shoving, Black Friday, and fights over getting the last I-Phone version 126.96.36.199.8.c in stock? You know, all those wonderful, heart-tugging, moments of the Christmas (notice I haven't said HOLIDAY once!!!!) season??? Well, 1 out of those 5 DID occur...Black Friday. It seems to have permeated Ecuador. I mean, Black Friday, has always been about the day after Thanksgiving and the fact most Americans have that day off from work to make a 4 day weekend, thus a great kickoff for Christmas shopping. BUT, the Pilgrims didn't land in ECUADOR!!! We don't have that holiday. Everyone works Thursday, Friday, and a half day on Saturday! Nonetheless, the merchants have been promoting Black Friday, even though if you asked people where it came from, 99% problably don't know. I bet it got started here by the Ecuadorians who moved to NYC and NJ to find work in the past 2 decades, and are now starting to return home to EC.
I don't know for a FACT, but from what I've been able to observe, the whole notion of buying truckloads of gifts for loved ones is very toned down here. For instance, I rarely saw any gift-wrapping stations anywhere in commerical centers. I didn't even see much gift wrap for sale! I didn't see shoppers walking down the streets loaded up with several large designer bags of gift-stash. BUT, it is very common here to find in stores, several large barrels each filled with a specific type of candy or cookie and people buying those by the pound. As well, a lot of stores provide pre-assembled cardboard boxes (envision a kitty carrier box) where shoppers can buy whatever they want (ie; canned goods, wine, pasta, fruits, candy, etc) and place them in the boxes as gifts to relatives, neighbors, friends, etc. Stores also offered pre-packed boxes, sort of like a 'grab bag'...you get whatever is in there.
The weather. When I lived in San Diego and Los Angeles, California, Christmas always was a smidge odd to me because it would be 78 degrees and I'd be wearing shorts and a tanktop as we sang 'Joy to the World' at the mall's Christmas tree lighting. After all, I'm from the Great Pacific Northwest, where there was a good chance of snow and/or ice and temps down in the 30's at Christmastime.
It's not like either one of those here in Cuenca. Christmas falls in our Summer, temps are likely to be in the low 70's, with sun and broken clouds...perfect for the huge parade that runs for HOURS on Christmas Eve day.
So, yes, there are similiarities and differences between our Christmas Season and the US's (now called) Holiday Season. We both have music concerts, parades, lights, trees, shopping, and family gatherings. It's just that each of those are flavored differently.
Enjoy the photos and the videos that follow. To play the videos (Maxine....listen up!) double click on the white triangle (arrow) in the middle of the black image. Once the video starts, click on the little square box in the bottom right corner to make the video much larger to view. To exit the video at the end, press the ESC button in the upper left corner of your keyboard. Then, you can play the next video.
PS...I said 'Christmas' 20 times (ooops, now 21), and Holiday only 3 times (now 4). Please don't have a hissy fit, call out Homeland Security, and/or send drones over my house!!!
|Cuenca International Chorale Concert in the Old Cathedral|
The city erected a lot of large poles on either side of the river in order to string these (new this year) lights.
|A relatively new image emerging more and more each Christmas.|
|Trees of Parque Calderon with Old Cathedral in the background.|
|Glorieta in Parque Calderon with young adults practicing break dancing.|
|Lighted trunks of the original 8 trees that form a circle in the middle of Parque Calderon|
|The New Cathedral|
Notice the size of the cars and the people walking in front of it, in relation to the size of the Cathedral!
|Moon over Miami....errr.....over the Old Cathedral|
|Spectators watching the parade from balconies.|
|I thought Roy Orbison died!!! Ummmm.....is.....that.....fake....or....real hair? Nawwww...it's REAL!!|
(I just COULDN'T resist!!!)
|A boy carrying a bull over his head that regulary snorted fireworks out its nose!|
|Many of the young boys were fashioned with moustaches, beards, and/or goatees.|
|Most of the horses were festooned with candies, bottles of booze, fruits, etc in a very artistic array.|
Notice the 'driver' of the horse is totally conked out.
|Can you imagine walking the entire parade in these sandals? Not even for a Marlboro would I !!!|
|Notice the huge whisk he is enteirng and pulling out.|
Rich creme of apple. Something, something. Good for the anemia and pain of the head.
|She's riding atop a beautiful carriage. See next photo.|
|The wooden rails on their shoulders are not even PADDED!!|
Yes, my friends, what you just saw is CHRISTMAS (no, not 'Holly Days') in Cuenca..... Ecuador ...... South America.
I rest my case, no further questions Your Honor!