The past few months have been full of holidays and although I missed my family and friends a lot, it was fun to celebrate with new friends and family in Peru.
In the sierra Halloween is not really celebrated, instead they celebrate the day of the dead on the 1st and 2nd of November. Families visit the grave sites of other family members and there is a fiesta in the cemetery.
On the coast more people celebrate the Halloween we know in the states. Kids dress up in costumes and trick or treat during the afternoon and then young people and adults dress up and go out at night. A group of us met up in a coastal town and headed to a Halloween party at one of the discotecas in our very creative (cheap) costumes!
Obviously not a Peruvian holiday, but keeping to our USA roots we celebrated anyways! One of our directors in Lima held a giant Thanksgiving dinner for volunteers and staff. It was so fun to connect with everyone again after three months of being in site. Thanks J. White for the lovely dinner!!
In Peru they celebrate Christmas on the night of the 24 and it’s called Noche Buena. The way they celebrate might depend on where you are in Peru, but in most places all the family gets together on the night of the 24 and waits for midnight. At midnight Jesus is born, so they put baby Jesus in the Nativity, everybody says “Feliz Navidad” to each other with a hug, there are fireworks, people sing, children open their presents at midnight, adults toast, and after all that finishes they have dinner (turkey, paneton, chocolate, etc) and stay awake until late dancing and drinking.
Paneton is a sweet bread that is consumed all over Peru during November and December during Chocolatadas. A Chocolatada is a party where everyone gets together and drinks hot chocolate and eats paneton. In Santa Cruz every classroom at school had a chocolatada, groups of co-workers, mother’s club, and groups of friends also hold their own.
In my town different institutions put up decorations in the plaza and some families built elaborate nativity scenes in their homes and businesses using paper mache. My favorite decorations are the lights that also play Christmas carols! You walk into a room and here about 6 different tunes all playing at the same time.
My favorite part of Christmas was getting to FaceTime with my family as they all ran downstairs to see the tree and open presents! My first Christmas away from home was strange, but so beautiful to be able to learn about the traditions in a different culture.
New Year’s Eve:
I was pleasantly surprised by all of the New Year’s Eve traditions that Peruvians celebrate! For NYE I headed to a beach town near Chiclayo with some other volunteers and a lot of my Peruvian friends.
In Peru the lucky color for New Year is Yellow, so as we walked in the door we were handed yellow things to welcome 2015. It is also very important to wear yellow underwear for good luck next year. A funny note from our Peace Corps doctor: “It has to be a new underwear (and it brings more good luck if someone gives it to you as a gift). Wearing a white underwear for a week until it becomes yellow doesn’t work.”
Other traditions include:
-Lots and lots of fireworks
-Eating 12 grapes for good luck
-Running around the block with a suitcase so that next year you can travel more
-Burning a muñeco (life-size doll made from your old clothes) in order to burn all the bad things that happened to you this year
After all of the traditions are completed the party lasts until the sun comes up. In true Peruvian style I made it until 8:30 in the morning! We played guitar, danced, grilled, and even ordered a pizza at 4am.
Overall the holiday season in Peru was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to see what the future holds in 2015!