Our family's typical Christmas Eve in Chile is a quiet one. While our neighbors celebrate with cookouts and opening gifts at midnight, we generally end the evening early by reading the Christmas story and perhaps opening one gift before tucking the children in bed. In Iquique we added the tradition of going to the beach after dark to sing Christmas carols by moonlight. But this Christmas Eve - or Nochebuena as it is called in Spanish - was different for us.
We had the privilege of being invited to share Christmas Eve dinner with good friends, the Ruz family from church. Solange is known for her hospitality and "buena mano" or cooking skills, so we knew the meal would be something special. In fact, she prepared a delicious turkey basted in pineapple juices and other seasonings. We contributed cauliflower and she mashed it into a tasty, spicy dish we had not tried before. Pedro was asked to do the honors of carving up the turkey, so the adults squeezed into the kitchen for good fellowship before a great meal!
The table was beautifully set and decorated for Christmas. The appetizer was an attractive palta reina, half an avocado stuffed with crab and nestled on a bed of lettuce. It was a treat to sit down to both a beautiful meal and uplifting company, though the hour was late and we were getting a bit sleepy!
Our five and their two kids are good friends and enjoyed each other's company waiting to eat and for midnight to arrive. With our own American Christmas ahead of us in the morning, we did not stay long past then but after well wishes and holiday hugs, walked home quietly in the cool night air.
The glow of Christmas lights in the towers overlooking our neighborhood gave a warm and festive feel to our late-night/early-morning trek the five or so blocks home. It was a blessing to share a Chilean Christmas Eve and the joy of friendship as we celebrated the coming of the Christ child to this earth!