FESTIVE SEASON TRADITIONS IN THE SUN
Publication: Resorts Magazine
Date Published: 11/8/2008
Perhaps one of the most established Christmas traditions for gay travelers has developed into a vacation somewhere in the sun. Often it provides a well earned break from routine, a time for the family to play together, and prepare for the long, dark winter days ahead.
Whatever the reason, a Christmas escape to the sun is often rewarded by some unique or unusual ways to celebrate the spirit of the season. By visiting other countries at this time of the year one can learn some fascinating history from the different cultures and customs from times gone by which created these annual local revelries.
Given the new airline baggage restrictions and the costs for excess baggage you might want to plan to arrive a few days before the actual holidays and take advantage of some local shopping for your gifts. Most places have some wonderful craft markets where gifts can be unique and probably cost less. Often the crowds of shoppers are minimal compared to home but the Christmas Eve rush tends to be a global constant!
Here are some popular sunshine holiday destinations often chosen by GLBT vacatioers and what local essence might be in store for your festive season.
On the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, a United States Territory with Latin roots, the big holiday celebration is held on Nochebuena---Christmas Eve. Family and friends gather together for traditional foods of lechón asado---roast pig on a spit--- and pasteles made from mashed green banana dough filled with meat and wrapped in banana plant leaves. Holiday desserts include arroz con dulce---rice cooked with spices, sugar, milk, and coconut milk---and tembleque---a custard made with cornstarch, sugar, and coconut milk which are eaten cold, when the consistency becomes solid. Nougat, imported from Spain, is another popular sweet dish during the Holidays. Dinner is accompanied by Coquito the traditional festive beverage of coconut milk and rum.
For musical entertainment, Parrandas is Christmas caroling Puerto Rican style. Friends gather late in the evening to roam the neighborhood singing traditional songs. The parranderos must surprise unsuspecting friends and wake them with their music. The parranderos gather outside the front door and when signalled the musicians play and the chorus sing aguinaldos---Puerto Rican Christmas Carols. At each house they visit for a while and celebrate. At each stop the owners of the house join the parranda and it expands in size during the evening.
The parties often last till the early morning and on Navidad---Christmas Day---people rest from Nochebuena. Most modern Puerto Rican families celebrate with Santa on this day. Homes are decorated much like in the mainland United States but include a lot of palm trees and their branches. Families set up nacimientos---Nativity scenes---or pesebres with The Three Wise Men or Los Reyes figuring prominently.
Good food and songs make this a holiday to remember.
Throughout this lush, tropical country, several weeks before Christmas, elaborately decorated market stalls or puestos are set up in the plazas of every Mexican town and city. Some people travel for days from remote areas to get to these markets. The puestos offer crafts of every conceivable kind, foods such as cheese, bananas, nuts, and cookies, and flowers such as orchids and poinsettias. The poinsettia is native to Mexico and is believed to have first been used in connection with Christmas in the 17th century when Mexican Franciscans included the flowers in their Christmas celebration.
Mexico’s Christmas traditions are based on this country’s form of Roman Catholicism and regional cultural traditions also called posadas---processions. Ove