Another Great Christmas in Panama

It was a great holiday weekend here! It started Friday night. Joel’s band had a gig in Boquete. I went along and saw some good friends, enjoyed the music, and had a really nice evening. Even the drive up was beautiful.

Saturday was Christmas Eve. Some friends came to visit in the afternoon and we enjoyed some nice time sitting under our trees and chatting. Later in the evening we were invited to the home of a good friend in the next town up the road. This is a neighborhood of young families. Kids were playing in the street, setting off firecrackers, riding bikes, and showing off the LED lighted shoes that have become the latest “must have” thing. Dinner was rice and guandu (pigeon peas), potato salad, pork, and tamales, a very traditional holiday dinner. It’s all piled on a plate in the kitchen and handed out to the guests, and it was really delicious. They moved the living room furniture to the front yard which was comfortable and fun, and we enjoyed a few hours of relaxation and conversation.

Later we came back to our neighborhood to enjoy the fireworks with our neighbors. Christmas eve is the biggest celebration here. People set off fireworks climaxing around midnight. Then, after midnight, everyone wishes everyone Feliz Navidad, they open gifts, and then have dinner with the family.

When we returned the kids across the street were setting off fountains and roman candles. The gal on the corner shared delicious carrot cakes that she had made for everyone. Other people in the neighborhood set off some really beautiful fireworks and we saw a few floating balloons. Those are so pretty! They are little hot air balloons with a fire underneath so they glow in the sky as they float overhead. When midnight passed we returned to our house, but I could still hear fireworks going off for more than an hour. I’ve heard that in some places that goes on for most of the night!

Sunday was Christmas day, usually a fairly quiet day especially for those who partied late into the night. We were invited to another family dinner by another friend, so we set off in the early afternoon. This was a large Panamanian family of siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and cousins that I never got entirely straight. It was really interesting to see the photos of all the parents and grandparents on the wall and learn a bit about the history of the family. It was a great house and property with lots of sitting areas perfect for relaxing and chatting.

Dinner was excellent,  partly potluck but still quite traditional – rice and guandu, potato salad, green salad, turkey and stuffing (with green olives and raisins), broccoli and cauliflower, and tamales again all piled on a plate and served to the guests. No one goes hungry around here at Christmas!

Panamanian families for the most part seem to get along peacefully. Of course there are relationship breakups and other problems that happen everywhere, but both of the families we spent time with felt happy, people were affectionate with each other, and seemed very happy and relaxed in each others company. We were also welcomed with such friendly smiles and genuine hospitality by both the people we knew and those we were meeting for the first time. I so appreciate that we were invited to these dinners. It was a really special time for us.

Next up, welcoming in the New Year!

Of course I can’t leave without sharing a bug and some wildlife 😀

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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13 Responses to Another Great Christmas in Panama

  1. Looks like you had a wonderful Christmas, Kris and Joel. Wishing you love and peace for the New Year.

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  2. Ken Kimsey says:

    Sounds like an ideal Christmas. What kind of music does Joel’s band play? Has he posted any of it to YouTube?

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  3. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Our visits around Christmas time always seemed to trigger family get togethers. We spent all of December once just so we could give Mima a Mother’s Day party. Just the immediate family but the final count was 34 souls for supper. We had 20 pounds of rice on the fogón plus tamales, desserts, a cake, and acres of veggies. Every one we visited served up the food you pictured, I gained 10 pounds by the time we got back home. Great fun. Those Panamanians really know how to throw down a party.

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    • jim and nena says:

      Showed the food fotos to Nena while I was making breakfast. Had to make more food for her!

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    • It seems most Panamanians have a lot of extended family and they tend to stay in the area so gatherings can be quite large. We were invited to a birthday party once, all family, and probably 100 people! Yeah, if I kept eating like that I’d need bigger clothes 😀 You are right, I’ve learned a lot about hospitality from the Panamanians.

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  4. Cathy V says:

    Sounds absolutely wonderful …. relaxing
    … no traffic jams or parking problems. And good food!

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