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Reflections on a Christmas in Oaxaca

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As 2016’s festivities draw to a close, BristoLatino politics editor Cleo Robbie recalls the festive period she spent with a Mexican family last December on her Year Abroad

Exactly a year ago, I was in Oaxaca for Christmas. I left for my Year Abroad with no idea who I would spend the festive period with, I certainly did not have enough money to go back home to Europe and I just hoped that by Christmas I would have met enough friendly people, one of whom would invite me to spend the festivities with their family. And luckily it happened, just as I had hoped for! My friend who I had met at work invited me to go to her home city of Oaxaca, a beautiful city and now one of my favourite places, in the south of Mexico. We had just moved into a new flat together with another of our colleagues in Mexico City, everything was a bit hectic with no hot water and barely enough furniture to function but we managed to pack our bags and leave the flat with just enough time to catch the bus. After almost missing the bus, and a lot of pleading with security to let us through faster, we were off for our 8 hour journey to sunny and warm Oaxaca.

Upon arrival, we were met by my friend’s father who drove us back to the family house where I was to meet all her siblings and their respective spouses and children. It was a wonderful Christmas, although I must admit, I was under the impression that it was maybe not a ‘typical’ Mexican Christmas due to the family’s faith. Indeed, they were a protestant family, whereas most Mexicans are catholic.

During the week I was there, my friend and I visited the city of Oaxaca and its wonderful surroundings: Hierve el Agua is an absolute must-see if you’re travelling in the region! We went for various breakfasts in hotels with different members of her family and all in all had a wonderful time. One thing that stuck out for me was the chocolate drink they have for breakfast. Oaxaca is known for its mayordomo chocolate, which they melt and add water to and it makes for a delicious hot drink. I bought some to bring back to Europe, and will make some this week for my family to taste, although I am not sure how it will turn out a year after buying it!

Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico

Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico

On Christmas Day, which is celebrated on the evening of the 24th like most catholic countries, we went to church. It was an interesting experience to say the least. I haven’t even spent much time in churches in England, let alone Mexican Evangelical all-singing and all-dancing ones! Once the service had finished, we headed back to the family home where we all had dinner in the main courtyard. Each member of the family had brought a dish, I contributed a questionable attempt at roast potatoes (trying to share good-old British culture!) but the main dish, cooked by my friend’s mother, was a chicken casserole cooked in pineapple juice and spices. At the end of the meal, we exchanged presents and I was given a wonderful illustrated and poetic book on the myths of Oaxaca and a pair of earrings.

Mayordomo chocolate

Mayordomo chocolate

Although it was memorable, I wouldn’t want to spend all my Christmases away from my family.  However, as a one-off, it was lovely and very interesting to see how other people celebrate. I am thankful to my friend’s family who allowed me to be a part of their intimate gathering and welcomed me warmly.

Images (top to bottom): Top Travel Spot, Mercado Libre. Featured Image: BBC Travel.