Decorations have sprouted everywhere we go. The Western world is not alone in the mass consumption of goods purchased on “Black Friday”. Nope, you should have seen the crowds at our little mall in David on that day! The Panamanians were out in force ready to save big on all the sales in the stores. We made the mistake of going to David to get a few things done before the weekend. We had to pick up some lights that Scott had ordered for his workshop so Lumicentro was our big stop. There wasn’t even any parking in the lot, we lucked out and found a spot on the side of the road. This ‘mall’ is normally busy but not like this! You could barely walk for all the crowds! There were police out in force and people standing in long lines inside all the stores. Not only inside the stores but also outside the stores there were families waiting with large appliances, washers, huge big screen TV’s, and all sorts of purchases. It was seriously a madhouse! So we got our lights and high-tailed it outta there as fast as we could. That was a lesson learned, next year on ‘Black Friday’ you won’t find us anywhere near David and especially not anywhere near any stores! Ugh! We really hate crowds! That was equivalent to Valley Fair on Black Friday…quite possibly even worse!
The biggest holiday of the year was last Monday, Dia de Madre, Mother’s Day. Its a national Holiday here, schools are closed and its a mandatory paid day off for workers, they really take their Mothers day seriously around here! I Drove Bond & Luana to the airport in the morning and the roads were deserted. My entire drive home felt almost eery because of the lack of anyone out and about. The streets of Boquete were as quite as could be, nothing was open and everyone must have been at home with mom. Its really sweet how much they love their moms here. A few of our workers asked for loans, (small loans are a common thing here), for buying gifts for their moms. One of our guys said he wanted to buy a stove for his mom…I think he must have meant a new hot plate cuz’ he only wanted $80.00. I thought that was so sweet that he wanted to buy his mom a new stove. While the Independence celebrations were major parties, Mother’s day was a different kind of celebration, much quieter. I don’t remember from last year if Father’s Day was as big, but I don’t think so. It’s the Madre who gets the big celebration here! I asked the gardener yesterday, Leo, if his mom had a nice Mothers day. He gave me a big smile and said,” Si, ella tenia una buena fiesta y tiene un montón de regalos!” His mom, as with all the moms in Panamá, had a good day. And Scott and I had a day off to relax…
And now Christmas, Feliz Navidad, is upon us. The local Market, Romero’s has Christmas tree’s for sale in the parking lot. But I gotta tell ya, those trees look pretty sad. Talk about Charley Brown trees…these are not exactly bountiful looking christmas trees. Hah! I think most people here use fake trees. I often see them on the front porch all decked out and decorated to the hilt. Many houses have lots of decorations just dripping from the front porch. They do love their Christmas decorations, thats for sure. Its kinda funny to see the holiday decorations because its always so warm and sunny here, not that we had especially ‘Wintery” holidays in California, but it was at least kinda cold. Here, aside from having less rain and more wind the weather is pretty much the same all year around so I don’t have that same feeling of Christmas. All the stores though, are seriously decked out for Christmas and have huge displays of decorations for sale! You know when you walk into Conways (kinda like Target ), that its the Holidays, that’s for sure! Since we’ve lived here we have been renting, living in other peoples houses and so we just haven’t put out any decorations for any holidays. So this really makes it hard to feel like its Christmas. Maybe next year when we’re living in our own space and we have our own things in our house, we will put up some decorations.
We do seem to be establishing a few little traditions for our Panamá Christmas in the form of two holiday parties that we have been invited to again this year. There is a big BBQ at a nearby country club . This party was a lot of fun last year, they had a huge steak BBQ and live music, everyone contributed an appetizer, a salad or a desert. You bring your own cooler with whatever beverage you like to drink and a lawn chair. They do sell tickets to the party and the money they collect goes towards a local charity that helps animals which I love to contribute to. The other party we are looking forward to is Terry & Manzars yearly White Elephant gift exchange. Last year we really had a great time and its a sure thing that we’ll laugh a lot and enjoy the company of lots of nice people again this year. This is our first Christmas having employees and I really wanted to do something a little special for them for the holidays. Earlier in the year, when we had our first mondongata to celebrate the new roof on the casita, I bought them all new boots. Well, you should see how used and abused those boots are already! So I plan to do that again for their Christmas present. I got their shoe sizes and I’ll go shopping and pick up 8 pairs of work boots for them. The last big thing I have planned for this holiday month is my friend Lyn’s event at the village in Rambala. She raises money to provide a big holiday party for about 80 children in this small village. Last year I helped her and this year I plan to do it again. She collected about $1,000.00 from donations of friends and she went shopping in David and bought all the kids gifts. This year she’s really going all out, she has arranged for a Spanish speaking santa and she’s gotten a piñata and ice cream and its going to be more like a party than just handing out gifts. I’ve got a few friends driving over in my car and Lynn will have her car filled to the roof with presents. Next week we will get a bunch of ladies together to help wrap all the presents. I love this event and Im glad to make it one of my holiday traditions.
I’m really enjoying doing meaningful things through the holidays. I have always wished for my Christmas to be more about meaningful experiences and less about the accumulation of gifts that I don’t really need. To me, focusing on the people in our lives and the simple pleasure of time together makes the holidays feel so special. Sharing a meal, laughing a lot and not worrying about how I’m going to pay the debt from buying presents makes for a meaningful time. I’m not saying that gift giving is a bad thing, only that for me, it isnt especially joyful when so much stress is involved in the task of spending so much money on material things that no one really even needs. I may sound like a Scrooge…I don’t mean to come across like that, I’m only expressing the joy I feel at beginning new traditions. When we made the decision to move to Central America we wanted a whole new way of living and experiencing our life. So far we’ve managed to do just that, we’ve created a completely different life for ourselves. It isnt fancy or glamorous and it isnt a life that is appealing to the masses, but its overwhelmingly appealing to us in unending ways. New and different traditions are just one small part of our new life here in Panama. Whatever your traditions are during this time of the year, may the most important focus be the people in your life and the special time you have with them. In the end Im pretty sure that’s what’s most important and most special in all our lives. I hope that whatever Traditions you hold dear to your heart gives you unending joy!