I doubt the Mayans ever heard of Santa Claus back when they were building one of the greatest, most advanced civilizations known to man. But it would only be a matter of time before good ol’ Saint Nick would make an appearance, much to the delight of merchants and business-people everywhere.
Today I’m visiting the “Festival Navideño” (Christmas Festival), set up by the government on Guatemala City’s main square, in Zona 1. Apart from the Latin music blaring in the background and the stalls selling traditional Guatemalan sweets, the decorative elements are very much North American in influence.
There are gingerbread houses, made of cardboard:
Signs pointing in the direction of the North Pole:
A full-fledged outdoor ice skating rink, just like the ones no one used to play in Guatemala when they were kids:
And even an ice slide, where kids can practice their sledding techniques:
Admittedly, this is all pretty cool when viewed through the eyes of a child.
But I get the nagging feeling that this is “someone else’s” vision of Christmas. One shaped by TV programming that incorporates elements and experiences that have zero to do with the countries they’re exported to.
Is Christmas synonymous with ice skating, sledding, Santa Claus and gingerbread houses?
That would’ve been news to me as a kid growing up in the Dominican Republic.
My childhood memories of Christmas toys involved “The Three Wise-men”, not Santa Claus. And the big day for gifts was January 6th, not December 24th.
I never did sledding on icy, snow covered hills. I did do “sledding” on palm tree “yaguas”, so maybe that kinda counts.
Gingerbread houses? Nope. But we did managed to sneak a few sips of rum-spiked “ponche”, our own version of eggnog.
Chalk up my griping to old age, which seems to be making me crankier as my 35th birthday approaches next week.
I like traditions to stay the way they were. When it all becomes the same everywhere, travel loses some of its charm.
If I want to see Santa, I’d like to know where to find him, if I ever start to miss him.
Maybe in the coming days I’ll experience what a true Guatemalan Christmas is like, not a cheap American imitation.
Such are the joys that globalization brings. Until then, I’ll have to wait.
In the meantime, I have to go do a little dancing.
“Gangnam Style” is playing over the loudspeakers.