At my school, today was el día de fraternidad. Every year in the first week of December the whole school is divided into groups and we travel throughout the city to visit homes for the elderly. We spend a month collecting food and money to buy gifts that we then bring with us to share with the folks living in these homes. We only spend about 3 hours at the homes, but the time is very special. There are not really words to describe the beauty of children and elderly people singing, talking, laughing and interacting. We share in a tradition of novenas and gozos, a series of prayers in songs (a week early). Then the students pass around Christmas pictures and colored pencils for the elderly folks to color and make Christmas cards. Some just want to talk, and there's a lot of that too. Before we leave each person is given two gifts - a bag of Christmas cookies and a winter hat. I didn't end up getting pictures of this because I was busy talking with the people in the home (I could actually communicate with them this year - very exciting!) and encouraging the students to initiate conversations. My fifth graders were very nervous in the beginning but by the end of our time there had made some friends and were telling me all about the amazing people met and the stories they heard. So special!
In the evening, my friend Natalia invited me to her house to light candles with her family. The 7th of December is the official start of Christmas in Colombia. On this night, families get together for dinner and to light candles outside their homes, in the windows, etc. to light the path for the Virgin Mary on her way to Bethlehem. It is a beautiful tradition as it brings together the family and the community, as everyone is outside lighting candles. It is also beautiful to see all the candles lit as you walk or drive down the streets throughout the city. Additionally, there are fireworks. It's a big deal.
I don't have official family here, which can be difficult especially on days like this one, but Natalia's family has been kind enough to adopt me. We all helped Natalia to decorate her apartment for Christmas (many families wait until this day to decorate), we ate arepitas with hogao, and then we went outside, lit candles, said a prayer, and listened to some Christmas music. Later in the evening, I rode with Natalia when she took her aunt and mother home. The city was gorgeous and there was a peace that you could feel and see as families and in some cases neighborhoods were sitting outside together with candles lit.
|Natis' Christmas tree|
|I made the bow for the door. :-)|
|Arepitas y velitas...Christmas begins Colombian-style!|