Dec 19, 2003

Christmas on the farm

On December 17 we threw a Christmas party for the farm's workers and their families. Counting the children, there were about 60 people there - and this represented only part of all the people whose lives have been touched by the farm project so far. Pastor Adrian Ventura led the group, which was larger than some of the registered congregations in the Lutheran Church of Venezuela, in a devotion on the true meaning of Christmas.

Some of you have asked how they celebrate Christmas in Venezuela. Well, it's obvious many holiday traditions have been imported. Christmas cards for sale often feature snow-covered landscapes. Many holiday displays feature Santa Claus and even Frosty the Snowman. They call him San Nicolas here, but it's still the same guy with a long white beard dressed in a red jumpsuit with white fur trim. There's holiday music on the radio, although it's more likely to be Trini Lopez singing his 1960s hit, "Feliz Navidad," than Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas."

But there is one distinctively Venezuelan Christmas tradition and that's the hallaca. It is kind of like a tamale, but instead of a corn husk, it's wrapped in a leaf from a banana tree. The filling includes three kinds of meat: beef, chicken and pork. Other ingredients vary according to region and the individual tastes of the cook. The hallaca was a featured item on the Christmas party menu along with salad.

The carrots and potatoes in the salad were actually grown on the farm. Luz Maria and I peeled the vegetables the night before - enough for 60 people. Talk about romantic. I also peeled a pineapple for the first time in my life. It was much like peeling the carrots and potatoes, only trickier because of the spines.

Nearly everyone had a good time at the Christmas party. The only exception was Linda, the farm's watchdog, who was tied to a tree for the occasion. She suffered a high degree of canine anxiety because of her inability to thoroughly investigate all the unfamiliar people.

I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas and thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.

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