Home is Where the Holiday Is

For our last holiday season in Nicaragua, we wanted to be at home in Esteli and spend Christmas and New Years Eve like most Nicaraguans do: in family.  We had two main goals, one of for each holiday.  For Christmas I wanted to try the seasonal dish lomo relleno, and for New Years Eve Emily wanted to make our own viejo.

Both holidays involve staying up to midnight fireworks, and eating lots of food!  The big Christmas day in Nicaragua is the 24th.  We started off our afternoon with a Skype call to Portland family.  After our conversation, I picked up my phone to see I had six missed calls from our friend Alina, the Ministry of Education superintendent!  She insisted we come to her house to eat nacatamales, which we gladly did.

Two years ago we helped Alina's family make their yearly batch of nacatamales. This year we got to try them. We are so grateful for her enthusiastic invitations to partake in Nicaraguan traditions.
Two years ago we helped Alina’s family make their yearly batch of nacatamales. This year we got to try them. We are so grateful for her enthusiastic invitations to partake in Nicaraguan traditions.

Afterwards, we picked up five pounds of lomo relleno from our sitemate Andrea’s host family, and headed over to the Vásquez house.  Ana Cecilia and her family hosted us and our three new sitemates (Sean, Dennis, and Andrea) for the evening.  At 11pm the lomo relleno was served, and it was delish!  It’s basically a baked pork loin, covered in a sweet BBQesque sauce, wrapped around a stuffing of pulled pork, bread crumbs, onions, garli, olives, wine, raisins, etc.  It gave us just the boost of energy we needed to make it to the fireworks at midnight.

Goal One – Achieved!

On December 30th, we got down to work on goal two.  Ana Cecilia’s children, Keneth (16 y/o) and Anahi (18 y/o), met us by the health center to buy firecrackers for our viejoViejo means “old” in English, so for New Years Eve Nicaraguan families will make effigies, stuffed with paper and gunpowder, to burn in commemoration of the old year. We spent just about $20 on our fireworks, and were assured this would be sufficient to wipe our viejo off the map.

With our explosives in tow, we arrived again at Casa Vásquez.  Old clothes were selected, used notebooks were ripped apart, and our viejo started to come to life.

The evening of the 31st was again spent eating, chatting, and enjoying each other’s company, although we were all anxious to see how our viejo would perform!  At 11:52pm, we realized no one had any gas to douse our effigy with, so Ana Cecilia and her husband left on an emergency mission to buy a gallon of diesel fuel.  While they were gone, we tactfully positioned our pyrotechnic scarecrow across the street, at a slightly less dangerous distance.  Our diesel arrived at 11:58pm, so not a minute was wasted in soaking Mr. Effigy with gasoline. At 12:00am, brave Hugo set fire to the left sock of our viejo

We waited with bated breath as the flame slowly, steadily crept up his pant leg until:

It’s always a little sad being away from family during the holidays, but midnight hugs from Nicaraguan loved ones, and the joy of taking part in new traditions, reminds us how blessed we truly are.  May 2017  bring us all more hugs and joy 🙂

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