Saturday, December 27, 2008
While many Americans have heard of Boxing Day (a holiday in Canada, the UK and other British Commonwealths, etc.), St. Stephen's Day and the Wren Boys are less familiar. An Irish custom, that is still celebrated in some rural areas is raucous, and joyful, while Boxing Day, traditionally a day for charity, now is the big post-Christmas shopping day. Watch this wonderful video from 1979 I found on YouTube.
I love having my house decked out for the holidays. I collect nativity scenes - most are from Latin America- and now have around 40. I am running out of places to put them all. Many have a story such as the Venezuelan one I have of 3 carved figures. When I went to Venezuela in 1998, I arrived on New Year's Eve at the airport in Caracus. My friends weren't there to meet me because they thought the date I said I would be leaving was the date I was arriving. And they couldn't get a car to come and pick me up. I ran into a young British woman who had no Venezuelan money and needed to buy a phone card to call her brother. I lent her my phone card, and she made her call. I went looking for a taxi and the taxi driver asked me for something like 50,ooo Bolivars which I quickly calculated was $150. I told him that my son and I would sleep on the sidewalk at the airport before I paid him and that $150 was what I had paid to get all the way from Washington DC and stormed off (luckily I am fluent in cursing and insulting in Spanish). I ran into the British woman who said her brother was coming in a taxi and I could ride with them into Caracus. The taxi arrived and was a falling apart 1960 something Chevy station wagon and the driver looked about 80 years old. I didn't think we'd make it as the car chugged over the mountains into Caracus while out the window we could see fires burning on the hillsides in the shanty towns above us as we drove through the night. The kind driver found a decent, but inexpensive hotel for my son and I and I paid only about $30 for the ride.
The next day we flew to Merida, a city in the Venezuelan Andes. I loved being there during the Christmas season. My friend, who is a geologist and artist, had nativity scenes all over the house, and it inspired me to create a similar atmosphere every year since then. I already had a few nativity scenes, but for the past 10 years have gone a little nuts. I visited several workshops with my friend when I found the Mary and Joseph. The artist hadn't finished the Baby Jesus, but promised to have it done in a couple of days. My friend's husband drove back to his workshop and got it for me as promised. My favorite one is a Brazilian nativity from Northeast Brazil - the first two pictures show it. The Venezuelan one is shown in the picture at the end of the second row with Joseph in lilac robes, and Mary in blue.
I knit almost all the gifts I gave this Christmas, except I did buy stuff for my son. I knit for him too - A Turn a Square hat, the Jason Flood pattern. But got a lot less done than I wanted. Next year I should start my holiday knitting earlier, or continue working on some projects like this Picks Up Sticks Poinsettia Wreath I bought in 2007. Still have a big stash to slog through, and would like to make a New Year's resolution to buy no yarn until Maryland Sheep and Wool