I did not have to wonder this year. This Christmas eve, I spent trying to speak in three different languages: English, French and Spanish. We were surrounded by our Québécois Mexico friends, Guy, Ramona, Alice, Luc and Joanne. Each person had different levels of fluency in different languages but we muddled through, and of course alcohol tends to help.
They took us to a restaurant in the neighboring town famous for its service where they make quite a show of it. For example, we had seven people at dinner, so, when our orders are ready, seven waiters come to the table. They synchronize it perfectly and put each order in front of each of the guests simultaneously.
We laughed, told stories, in multiple languages, and then we walked through town where all the families were having their parties; lights, fireworks and firecrackers galore. All night long, music, fire crackers, and party, party, party. Everyone. All ages. This makes for a pretty quiet Christmas morning, since everyone is sleeping in, or at least until we heard something we had never heard before.
This was the moment that I really knew I wasn’t having Christmas at home. We both heard what we thought at first was a very strange horn. Jim poked his head out the window and said, “Get a look at this, you won’t believe it.” I did, and if I hadn’t seen it myself I might not have. To the entertainment of the neighborhood a donkey, really a burro, had gotten lose and was galloping down the middle of the street braying at the top of his lungs. I had never heard an animal, relatively small, make such a big sound. It was like a call to Christmas morning. With all the parades and re-creations of the nativity we had witnessed in the weeks leading up to Christmas, with a donkey always carrying a Mary and a baby Jesus, it was like the donkey was yelling its freedom from all this Christmas stuff at the top of his lungs. Everyone in the neighborhood was laughing.
After our novel alarm clock, we decided to go to brunch at my favourite breakfast place, La Casa de Mi Abuela, The House of My Grandmother. I rode my little vintage folding bike that makes me feel like I am twelve again while Jim walked. Despite the recession making a noticeable drop in tourism this year, the street side Abuela cafe is packed. Good food and service always attract. There is always a range of 7 to 10 different kinds of fruits on their fruit plate and I always have to have the pancakes. By accident, Jim and I discovered a new taste sensation. Since the Mexicans put lime on everything, one day I tried it on my pancakes with maple syrup. Damn if that wasn’t the best taste combo discovery I have ever made in my life. The sour lime and the sweet maple syrup compliment each other perfectly, and with Abuela’s fluffy pancakes, it is “to die for,” as my sister would say. Well I could go on about their spiced potatoes and their excellent complimentary condiments like granola, yogurt. jams and marmalades, and cookies with your coffee, but I think you get the idea.
We were also sitting beside Bonny and her partner, also here from Vancouver. She is a Jazz singer who comes here every season and will be making appearances in some of the nicer restaurants. We make small talk and the usual gratitudes of how lucky we are to be here. She admires my bike. Again, I feel as proud as a preteen. We talk about the Vancouver music scene and I mention to her that I noticed that in the women’s washroom in the restaurant, on the back of the stall door is a fan club bumper sticker for a local Vancouver band, Brickhouse, from The Yale. We both think this is pretty funny that it wound up here, but given how many Canadians are here maybe not so strange.
We return home to encounter the donkey across the street eating garbage at the empty lot. I am worried for the donkey. They will eat anything and we hatch a rapid plan to catch it. Fortunately, we document the whole event with video and photos, and I add some music and commentary and post it on YouTube, calling it the Christmas Burro Boogie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MszDtbqE_L4 , it has a moral to the story which I will let you discover on the video rather than repeating it here.
The big revelation is that this was definitely not a “normal” Christmas, and while I love traditions, I am very happy forging new ones and discovering Christmas Mexico style. Feliz Navidad and Feliz Ano!
Kathrin Lake, Story Coach, helping others discover themselves through stories and to write amazing books and speeches. See our online group coaching for a low rate and our February writing retreats in Mexico: www.survivaltothrival.com