The Staying up all Night on Christmas Eve Thing   8 comments

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I somehow cannot get used to it, but know I would have been better at it had I met my husband in my twenties.  It would be old hat by now.

First I will explain that when Latinos talk about “Navidad” they are really talking about the 24th of December.   That’s the big day for them.   The 25th is really just a day after the big party to rest day.

My husband and I planned to go to a party at Maria and Javier’s house.   I asked beforehand how long he wanted to stay.  “Oh, till 5:00 am!”    Remembering that I’d woken up at about 5:30am this same morning, we decide to go in separate cars, so the “old lady” can bail when she needs to.   Party is within a longer walking distance, but Jesus can opt for that if he’s had too many and the taxis are not answering the phone.

I can’t tell you how fantastic of a party Maria always throws.   There is a GIANT casserole on the stove filled with rice – it’s about two feet wide – and I am not exaggerating.   Inside of the oven were all the “meats.”   She had – a Chumpe Pollo  (one of those insanely large chickens they have these days), a Turkey, and a Pork Roast.   They also had nice jumbo shrimp everyone was picking at.   We got there late (almost midnight) – which I learned later was really EARLY – he he he.

The party had, I thought, “thinned out” – there were about 10 people or less, and Maria’s family, including her daughter, son in law, and grandkids.

All of a sudden, Javier walks into the kitchen, dressed as Santa, with the suit and all, and even a pretend plastic pipe.   They had bought small gifts for everyone attending, and next thing you know we’re being called up to sit on Santa’s lap, Maria’s yerno taking pics with his i-pad, and we’re all cracking up at the guys who have to sit on Santa’s lap, too.   The funniest part was how Maria’s nieto (grandson) was pitching a fit about not sitting on Santa’s lap – she tried, but could not get a nice posed picture with him on Santa’s lap.   Meanwhile, the big burly guys were hamming it up, some even kissing Santa on the cheek!

I don’t know how Maria does it, but every year she buys gifts, maybe at clearance or big sales, but every SINGLE person who goes to her party walks out with a gift.   And she works at a factory sorting potatoes, onions and fruits.  You know what they say, it’s often the poorest people who are most generous.

Sometime around 1am a couple of guys walk into the party, carry instruments.  One guy was a funny character and spoke his best English with me – he was the guitarist.  The other gentleman had an accordion.  They sat in the family room and started jamming famous Mexican / Latino songs.  I recognized a couple of them, but Javier knew them ALL – and was singing along with all the words.    Those guys were AMAZING!

I chatted with a guy from San Vicente (in E.S. they call it “SanVi” for slang) about the different places I got to know while I visited and lived there, and it was nice.  His keys were absconded from him by Maria, so he was definitely there for the night, and had decided which couch he would crash on.

So I’m coming back to the point of my story, about staying up all night.  Some time after the “Dos Musicos” (2 musicians) arrived, a family and a couple of other friends of theirs walked into the party, maybe 1:30am.  The thinned out party was now building back up again.

At 2:00am I decided to bail.  Recovering from a cold, my throat was not pleased with any cold beer I doused it with, and all pooped, I said my goodbyes and left hubby and my brother in law with the rest of them.  No one was even close to leaving when I left.

Maria told me about the party the prior year – that finally at 3:00pm she went to sleep – a core set of people basically never went to bed.

I was not witness to how many people or how long they stayed up this year.   But Jesus (my husband, a great name to have this week) made it back some time around noon and crashed out completely at 1pm.

So that’s the STAYING UP ALL NIGHT on CHRISTMAS Latino thing.   My friend and I talked about it the “day after” on the 25th and he was in disbelief – “You can’t stay up all night like that”, he said “You’d have to be doing Cocaine or something.”

“No”, I explained to him, “Actually they have this amazing capacity to stay up all night without any mind altering substances because many people (mostly women) that are non drinkers / druggers are up right along with everyone, until very late.”

“It’s just a common practice of theirs”, I told him.

Latinos, at least the Salvadoran Brand, also stay up all night at wakes.   They drink coffee and eat sandwiches, the women chat with each other while the men play cards (and pull out bottles of guaro [cheap rum] , surreptitiously, to take nips at).

The tradition of staying up late, or Staying up all Night on Christmas, along with setting off firecrackers, is a Latino tradition which is almost the direct opposite of the “gringo” style tradition of stayin’ home and chillin’ with the family, eating home baked cookies in your pajamas.

“And guess what?”  I said to my friend, ” They’re going to do this all over again on New Years Eve!!”

8 responses to “The Staying up all Night on Christmas Eve Thing

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  1. I can not do it. I try but the more tired I am the crankier I get and I become miserable! This year is even worse cause I’ve driven to Colorado, back two time zones and now ten pm is like midnight for me.

  2. Hey Julie, nice to see you on the blog. Lot of driving going on there, what??? So your suegr@s and cunad@s also stay up all night?

  3. Awwww I miss Christmas in El Salvador. I live in L.A. ( I have most of my life) but always long for the smell of firecrackers, tamales, and dancing all night with my family, then on the 25th we would still manage to get up and spend a couple of days in the beach. We still celebrate navidad and new year’s eve dancing all night with our family and friends here, but the smell of firecrackers, the beach, and the food is not there anymore. We didn’t give or get all the gifts that we do here, but that wasn’t important. It was the feeling of Christmas and family that i miss dearly.

    • Thank you for contributing, Karla. I’m always impressed with the stamina of Latinos after partying all night – they make it all seem so natural. Yes, one of the things I like so much about El Salvador is how gift-giving and crazy running around shopping everywhere before the clock ticks down is NOT part of their Christmas at all. It brings Christmas back to where it should be. Wouldn’t it be nice if your family could celebrate Christmas and 31 in El Salvador one day?

  4. I loved christmas in E.S. Our neighbors would make piles of tamales and give them to everybody. They said that it was so everybody had something to unwrap on christmas. The fireworks would start before it got dark and continue for hours!

  5. Jonathan – I love that statement – so everyone has something to unwrap, so sweet! My husband misses the home-thrown fireworks, but he managed to buy a few legal ones here for Xmas.

  6. I experienced this with my husband in San Salvador unplanned. He was down there when he got very ill. He was in the hospital for a week and I flew down. He got out on Christmas Eve and we spent it and Cristmas day in the hotel. It was quite a new experience for us and one Christmas that will always be remembered.

    • Barbara, I’m sorry your husband was very sick, and what a way to end an illness getting out on Christmas Eve. Did you get to celebrate with anyone while in the hotel, and did you see all firecrackers going off, and all the music and everything?

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