My Christmas in Bolivia

by Me Bella!
(Santa Cruz de la Sierra)

We light our Advent candles each Sunday

We light our Advent candles each Sunday

I was usually sort of confused by the Christmas traditions in my multi-cultural family.

My dad was from the US (his mom was Norwegian, his dad was British) and my mom is from Germany, so I'm a combination of all of those. My dad died and years later my mom remarried a Bolivian. Can you imagine the weird Christmases we had?

Depending on where we were living at any given time, we either had snow, lutefisk, lefse and other Norwegian fare for Christmas (Minnesota, North Dakota, etc.) although once we had a duck my uncle shot, or we had rain and cool weather, honeyed ham and lots of fruit (Texas, California) or hot muggy weather with picana (Ecuador, Bolivia).

Typically rather than turkey or ham we'd beg and plead with my mom to make German Rolladen for Christmas dinner. But sometimes we had fricasé or some other sort of hot and spicy Bolivian dish! Lovely!

The tree and other Christmas decorating took place in early December. Never lacking at our house were three things: the Nativity scene (we still put up the same one we got 30 something years ago when I was little in Ecuador - hand carved wooden camels, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Kings, other animals); the Advent wreath (with four candles, one lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas); and the Advent Calendar (we usually had picture ones that our Oma (grandmother) sent from Germany - you had to open a little door on the picture each day to reveal the Nativity Scene beneath it).

Sometimes we opened gifts on Christmas Eve (typical in some parts of Europe and in Bolivia) and sometimes we waited until Christmas morning to do it (my brother and I hated having to wait).

Another "Christmas" tradition both in Europe and Bolivia is to celebrate January 6th (King's Day) which we LOVE because kids get more gifts! Ha ha ha. When we lived in the U.S. from time to time we'd be considerate of the other kids who didn't celebrate January 6th and not tell them about it ha ha.

When we were actually in the U.S. we'd try to spend Christmas with my paternal grandparents. There we enjoyed lots of super Norwegian and British traditions. And Christmas dinner typically included yummy things like lutefisk and ALWAYS lefse and ALWAYS my grandfather's chocolates and brittle. He'd make them weeks in advance and freeze them in containers in the garage (North Dakota - you don't actually need a freezer in the winter) he he.

One of the things I most looked forward to at Christmas time was the big box my Oma would send us from Germany filled with all kinds of delicious German chocolates, candies, licorice, and other sweets. Because this brings me such good memories, I've shared a recipe for my favorite Christmas cookie with you here: Aachener Printen.

My son who is Norwegian, German, British and Cuban and born in Bolivia enjoys a little of each of these traditions.

At times we'd go to church on Christmas Eve and at other times on Christmas day. But what never changed for us was the MEANING of Christmas - the birth of Jesus.


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