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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

2022 began with rainbows and ended with fab food, friends, and family — a good way to say hello and goodbye to a year that continued to bring serious challenges to this planet we call home. In my little Oaxaca corner of the world, the year had its circumstantial complexities but also was filled with visits from old friends, becoming more familiar with my Jalatlaco neighborhood, “any excuse gatherings” with my most excellent neighbors, and several adventures with BFFs in and out of the city.

January 13, 2022 – A rainbow surprise from my rooftop terrace in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
February 19, 2022 – Efedefroy stencil outside Xiguela Tienda, Barrio de Jalatlaco.
March 23, 2022 – Classic car on a street in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
April 12, 2022 – Agave quiote decorating the outside of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco.
May 30, 2022 – Rainy day streets in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
June 4, 2022 – Found objects art on the rooftop of Restaurant Oaxaca Mía, Teotitlán del Valle.
July 15, 2022 – Grasshopper on my rooftop terrace in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
August 27, 2022 – Calenda dancing its way along the streets of Barrio de Jalatlaco.
September 29, 2022 – Chiles en Nogada at Casa Oaxaca Reforma.
October 28, 2022 – Spiffed up La Hormiga food trailer at Conzatti Park.
November 6, 2022 – Murals at the entrance to Barrio de Xochimilco in Oaxaca.
November 6, 2022 – Ensalada Tehuana at La Biznaga on the corner of Magarita Maza and Benito Juárez (one of my favorite intersections).

Words can’t begin to express how grateful I am to you all for reading, commenting, and following my blog. You kept me going during the worst days of the pandemic and continue to inspire me. Thus, my 2023 wish for you is…

I Hope You Dance
Written by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake
But it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Reconsider
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)

I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
Dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion, always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
I hope you dance
(Where those years have gone)

(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)

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It’s the night before Christmas and, for the first time in three years, I’m spending it with family in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Christmas tree lot has been visited, a Douglas Fir has been purchased (albeit half the size of years past due to extreme sticker shock), four generations of ornaments have been brought down from the attic, the tree decorated, and stockings hung on the mantle. I love being in my childhood home with family but must admit to missing the resumption of Noche de Rabanos on the zócalo of Oaxaca city and posadas in my Jalatlaco neighborhood.

However, all thoughts of festivities in Oaxaca will take a back door to hosting our Christmas morning tradition of mimosas and æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) with family and friends, followed by a prime rib with Yorkshire pudding dinner served on my grandmother’s beautiful Lenox china and using my mother’s sterling silverware. And, warming my heart the most, the good natured teasing, laughing, and hugging shared with family and old friends.

However, no matter where I am, today is time for my blog’s Christmas Eve’s Pancho Claus tradition…

La Noche Before Christmas

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring, My goodness! ¿Qué pasa?
The children were all tucked away in their camas,
The girls in their sleepers, the boys in piyamas.

The stockings were hung, with mucho cuidado,
In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado,
To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,
Muchísimo candy, and other regalos.

When out in the yard there arose tanto grito,
That I jumped to my feet like a scaredy-gatito.
I ran to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world do you think that it era?

Saint Nick on his sleigh in a big red sombrero,
Came dashing toward me like a loco bombero.
And pulling his sleigh, instead of venados,
Were eight little burros venir-ing volados!

I watched as they came and this kindhearted hombre,
Was whistling and shouting and calling por nombre:
“¡Ay Pancho, ay Cisco, ay Chuy, ay Flaco!”
“¡Ay Bella, Estrella, Chiquita y Paco!”

Then he jumped off his sleigh with his hands on his pecho,
After landing on top of our very own techo.
And struggling to squeeze down our old chimenea,
He bounced off the hearth like a bowl of jalea.

Now huffing and puffing at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his vestido de gala,
He filled all the stockings with buenos regalos,
For none of the niños had been muy malos.

Then chuckling aloud feeling muy contento,
He turned in a flash and was gone like el viento.
And I heard him exclaim, y es la verdad,
“Merry Christmas to all, y ¡Feliz Navidad!”

***Inspired by the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore, 1822, and by the original song and lyrics “Pancho Claus” by Lalo Guerrero, 1956 (with permission from the estate of Lalo Guerrero). Conceived of and written as “The Noche Before Christmas”, (date/author/copyright uncertain, c. 1956-2001?). This revision by Bill Stryker and Norma Verdugo Stryker, 2019 (Copyright Registration Number TXu002156234) was introduced on my last year’s La Noche Before Christmas blog.

For an added treat, the original 1956 “Pancho Claus” recording by Lalo Guerrero.

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In Oaxaca, at any time of year, images of la Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) are never far away.

April 8, 2022 – Wall of a building on Calz. de la República, Oaxaca city.
March 24, 2022 – Wall inside Casa Ocho Regiones, Oaxaca city.
November 2, 2022 – Cemetery in Tlacolula de Matamoros.
February 3, 2022 – Guadalupe (on the right) at the restaurant Almú in San Martín Tilcajete.

However, today, December 12, is Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe and she and her image are being celebrated — including by the danzantes of Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2022-2024 in Teotitlán del Valle.

The legend of La Virgen de Guadalupe is known to every Mexican, every person of Mexican descent, and probably every foreigner who calls Mexico home. The image of this dark-skinned Virgin Mary who spoke Náhuatl is as imprinted on the national consciousness as she was on Juan Diego’s legendary tilma (cloak).

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Under the sun dappled light filtering through the 500 year old ahuehuete trees, there was stillness and peace.

November 2, 2022 in the panteón of Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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Every Día de Muertos, I love seeing the artistry of public ofrendas, feel honored being welcomed into the homes of friends and placing pan de muertos on their very personal ofrendas, and enjoy assembling my own ofrenda to departed loved ones. (Click on each image to see the details.)

Mitla – Ofrenda in the home of master weaver Arturo Hernandez Quero.
Mitla – Public ofrenda in the main plaza. Note the intricately decorated pan de muertos.
Teotitlán del Valle – Ofrenda of the weaver Pedro Montaño and cocinera Carina Santiago family in the Tierra Antigua restaurant and gallery.
Teotitlán del Valle – Ofrenda in the family home of weaver Zacarias Ruiz and Emilia Gonzalez.
Barrio de Jalatlaco – Private ofrenda open for public viewing at the corner of 5 de mayo and La Alianza.
Barrio de Jalatlaco – Family adding the finishing touches to their ofrenda. (They graciously gave me permission to take the photo.)
Casita Colibrí – My ofrenda in the daylight.
Casita Colibrí – My ofrenda at night awaiting the arrival of my departed.

I love the spicy and welcoming scents of cempasúchitl (marigolds), lacy flor de muerto from the Sierra Norte, pan de muertos, and incense of copal.

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The Día de Muertos murals in my Barrio de Jalatlaco neighborhood continue to go forth and multiply…

As do the crowds. Love the former. No comment about the latter.

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Everywhere one looks, skeletons can be seen hanging around my Jalatlaco neighborhood.

They are even floating above us.

At least they order something when they enter a restaurant.

All in all, they look pretty happy, even if some of their poses look mighty uncomfortable.

Hmmm, I wonder what they are waiting for. Día de Muertos, perhaps?

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After a two year absence, thanks to the pandemic, Mexico’s Independence Day parade returned to the streets of Oaxaca’s capital. There were lots of drums that had me hearing snare drums in my sleep that night. But, note all the young women drummers! (Click on each image to enlarge.)

Being that this was a civic and military parade, there were the requisite scary guys and gals with guns and military hardware.

But there were also contingents of firefighters, federal disaster relief, and the Red Cross.

There were horses with stunningly dressed male and female riders.

And, there were the young riders… from toddlers to preteens. Did I mention there were lots of horses?

And, to end the parade, there was a patriotic float with beautiful young women, dressed in the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag, singing the national anthem, “Himno Nacional Mexicano.”

¡Viva México!

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Adding some welcome color to these grey rainy season days, on the first of September my neighbors raised their ginormous flag marking the beginning of the Mes de la Patria — a month-long celebration of Mexico’s War of Independence from Spain.

The war lasted eleven years — from September 16, 1810, with Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores), to September 27, 1821, when the Army of Three Guarantees triumphantly marched into Mexico City.

Merchandise in green, white, and red (colors of the Mexican flag) fill store shelves, vendors ply the streets selling flags and tchotchkes, and patriotic displays decorate public and private buildings.

As for me, I’m jonesing for the season’s traditional dish of chiles en nogada. It’s been four years since I savored its complex combination of flavors and textures at Restaurante Catedral (photo above).

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Happy Father’s Day to all the loving fathers (biological and adoptive), stepfathers, grandfathers, godfathers, uncles, and father figures everywhere.

Parenting is the most valuable job you will ever have. May you fulfill your role with great love, care, and respect.

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An albeit belated return to Semana Santa (Holy Week). Viernes Santo (Good Friday) in Barrio de Jalatlaco began early in the morning with a Santo Viacrusis along the cobblestone streets — a recreation of the path Jesus walked to his crucifixion. Its purpose is to allow the faithful to contemplate the Passion of Christ. The images of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, accompanied by a band and neighbors, stopped at each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, that had been created throughout the neighborhood, where prayers were recited.

Image of Jesus being carried by Penitents.
Image of Mary Magdalene.
1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus takes up his Cross.
3. Jesus falls for the first time.
4. Jesus meets his Mother.

At the fourth station, set up across from the Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco, Mary and John the Baptist (referred to here as, Juan, el primo de Jesús/John, the cousin of Jesus) joined the procession for the farewell encounter between Jesus and his mother.

Mary, Mother of Jesus.
John, the Baptist.
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus falls for the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus falls for the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
12. Jesus dies on the Cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Following the procession, neighbors gathered in front of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco for food and beverages that were available for sale at stalls set up on Aldama and Hidalgo. I came home with yummy enchiladas.

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How wonderful it was to return to San Antonino Castillo Velasco on Domingo de Ramos and once again see and experience San Salvador atop his burro being piled high with the best and most beautiful bounty.

Covid precautions had caused the 2020 and 2021 Palm Sunday celebrations to be canceled. But, at long last, this year villagers, young and old, on bikes and on foot, in carts and in trucks, once again were allowed to return to the street outside the panteón (cemetery) bearing fruit, vegetables, herbs, breads, flowers…

… and farm animals! Their offerings were received and priced by a committee — to be sold later in the day to benefit a local project. By the way, the price tag for the colt read $4000 pesos.

Once the burro was “filled to the brim,” with only his face peeking out, the priest arrived to bless the offerings and faithful with holy water. Dare I confess, it was hot under the noonday sun and the sprinkling of cold water felt good! The palm fronds, having been blessed, were distributed to all. Fireworks began exploding and the rhythmic sounds of the teponaxtles (drums) and chirimía (small oboe) began playing — announcing the start of the procession. Led by smoke from burning copal and a trail of bougainvillea bracts, the litter carrying San Salvador atop his burro set off on the kilometer long journey to the atrium of the church. They were accompanied by villagers and visitors clutching palm fronds and carrying the remainder of the goods collected.

This is a reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. A few spectators chose to watch from balconies, but mostly the route teemed with a growing mass of followers as 30+ hardy men bore the litter along the “hazardous” street — ducking wires above and navigating topes (speed bumps) below.

Once inside the church atrium, San Salvador and his burro were carefully maneuvered onto a stage where the priest joined them to say mass. At this point, blogger buddy Chris and I swam against the crowd and made our way to the food stalls set up just outside the atrium — San Antonino’s mouthwatering empanadas de amarillo beckoned.

(ps) Chris made a video of the procession which you can view HERE.

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After two years of quiet contemplation, the streets of Barrio de Jalatlaco were once again alive on the sixth Friday of Lent in celebration of La Virgén de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows).

Here in my new neighborhood even more purple and white papel picado was strung from building to building.

At the far end of Calle Hidalgo, an altar to La Virgén was lovingly assembled.

In the late afternoon, stalls were set up along Calle Hidalgo and lines of neighbors and visitors formed to sample the freely offered aguas (flavored waters), nieves (ices), and traditional arroz con leche y garbanzos (rice pudding with chickpeas).

Mass was celebrated in Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco and music filled the street.

A generous, albeit temporary, antidote to the sorrows of our current world. I feel incredibly fortunate to have landed in this amazing neighborhood!

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After the 2021 hiatus due to the pandemic, Oaxaca city resumed its annual Carnavales Oaxaqueños calenda. This parade, held on the Saturday before the start of Lent, was begun in 2019 to promote the traditional Carnaval celebrations in various villages in Oaxaca’s Central Valleys and the Mixteca on Shrove Tuesday (aka, Carnival, Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday). This riot of music, costumes, masks, and even stilts assembled at the Cruz de Piedra, processed down the Macedonio Alcalá, and concluded at the Alameda de León — to cheering, chanting, and picture/video taking by residents and visitors.

Villages participating were San Bartolo Coyotepec, San Juan Bautista La Raya, Villa de Zaachila, San Bartolome Quialana, Santiago Juxtlahuaca, Magdalena Teitipac, San Mateo Macuilxóchitl, Santa Catarina Minas, Santiago Llano Grande, San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca, Santa María Coyotepec, Chalcatongo de Hidalgo, and Putla Villa de Guerrero.

Of course the pandemic isn’t over and a couple of weeks ago Oaxaca went back up to semáforo amarillo (yellow), so the impact of crowds gathering (albeit outside) remains to be seen. At least up near the parade’s starting point, most onlookers were wearing cubrebocas (protective masks). Unfortunately, the exceptions seemed to be young tourists. I am pleased to note that the poster for San Martín Tilcajete’s very popular Carnaval celebration states, “Uso obligatorio de cubrebocas” (Use of a protective mask is obligatory). Let us hope that the unmasked will respect the locals and put on a cubreboca!

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In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as Día del Amor y la Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship) — a sentiment that honors and celebrates more than just romantic love.

Recyclying heart by Noel Gómez Lorenzo — in front of Oaxaca’s Cathedral during the summer of 2021.

From my heart and home to yours, I wish all my blog readers, ¡Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad!

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