Paget’s Belize Journal #35

December 21: Is it really Christmas?

Several of you have had the experience of trying to get into
the Christmas spirit in a tropical clime. Just doesn’t work for
me. I put up my Christmas lights and got out my presents, wrapped
and sent off some others (but not soon enough I fear), helped
Tony and Therese and the kids put up their tree, but I’m just
not there. No tree of my own or cookies or parties or meeting
for a holiday lunch and not much shopping. Tony says (he’s from
Minnesota) that even after 15 years, it doesn’t seem like a REAL
Christmas to him.

The trees are all artificial, but I have to tell you some
of them look very good. Decorations on houses and stores are
very similar to the States, except there isn’t much in the way
of Santa and reindeer, just lights and swags and so forth. The
carolers have been out and I’ve seen whole pick-up loads of them
drive by, they haven’t caroled in my neighborhood. And, of course,
the religious aspects are more central because the entire country
isn’t a big enough market to have been deluged with the buy,
buy, buy advertising approach. Maybe that’s what I miss. You

One set of preparations that many people here seem to make
is replacing floor coverings. Many floors here are covered in
a plastic material called Marley. This is a sort of super-heavy
contact paper that comes in many, many Formica-like patterns.
There are probably two dozen places along the main street that
have major rolls of this stuff out front and people are really
buying. I gather you don’t usually stick it down, though, because
you need to pick it up to sweep under once in a while and also
because the cockroaches like to live under it if you don’t move
it around every week or so. Lots of people also make new curtains
and paint the house (not as major a project as you might think)
so the town is looking quite spruced up.

At Christmas time it’s very clear that we have two different
cultures operating here – the Garifuna and the Latin. All
the little Guatemalan and Mexican girls had beautiful, new elaborate
dresses for church last week and the stores that cater more to
the Hispanic community have much more in the way of toys. And
of course, secular Mexican Christmas decorations run to purple
and blue sequins, so the street vendor displays are VERY bright.

Wrapping paper is the same for everyone though. You can only
buy it at the markets run by Asians so it’s surely an Asian import.
All of the paper is that plastic metallic, silver or gold on
one side with a Christmas pattern on the other side. And it’s
quite expensive – BZ$1.50 (US 75 cents) for a sheet about 3′
by 3′. But it’s the only paper I’ve found. I haven’t been in
many houses, but the ones I have been in, there are no presents
under the tree. It might be one of those routines where all the
presents show up on Christmas Eve. I have been invited to Tony
and Therese’s for Christmas breakfast. And told by Rebecca that
I shouldn’t be late, because they don’t get to open presents
until AFTER breakfast.

Tonight we’re going to Southwater Caye to spend the night.
Some friends of T & T from Belize City and their visitors.
I may be a third wheel, but T & T asked me and I want to
go. Might end up being the nanny, but that’s okay I guess. I’ll
let you know how the moon looks from out in the Caribbean.