Season’s greetings to everyone from beautiful sunny Antigua Guatemala! Once again the Christmas spirit is awakened all over the world, and dreams of cozy winter nights curled up under our favorite blankets become all the more common. As our social media feeds fill up with promises of glistening snow and long winter nights, here in Antigua I wake up to a radiant sunny morning graced with a perfect 18 degrees. My garden is green and alive, having been recently invigorated by the rainy season, whose last dark cloud was ushered away by the November winds. Quite the unusual beginning of December for an Italian expat such as myself, yet the spirit is nevertheless present; Christmas in Antigua has its own kind of magic.
Here Christmas is defined by the colors, sights, and scents of manzanilla, pine, tamales, and the fruits of the season. So says historian Miguel Alfredo Álvarez, Director of the Museum of Natural History in Guatemala City, who actually traces much of Guatemala’s Christmas traditions back to Antigua and its rich past. In honor of these marvelous traditions I once made a huge curtain of manzanilla in the entrance of my store, and the sweet smell of the fruit wafted throughout, permeating the textiles and adding a little Christmas cheer to the fabric. For those who do not know, manzanilla is Spanish for “little apple” and is a type of hawthorn also known as tejocote. Our manzanilla is delicious, and many of my weavers have gifted me marvelous homemade manzanilla jams. In fact my incredible team of weavers and collaborators have never missed an opportunity to share their Christmas cheer with me, and along with the manzanilla come the famous tamales! I always end up with far more tamales than I need, yet it is a true crime to throw any away!
With such delicious seasonal food comes the need to take a nice long walk, and once again Antigua has me covered. Just like I did in my own store, most shops around the city work hard to put up beautiful displays. Taking advantage of Antigua’s many hidden gardens, local shop owners create a living museum of tropical Christmas magic. Taking a walk down Antigua’s cobblestone roads, preferably with a steaming cup of atol de elote, and browsing the shops, is one of my favorite new found traditions. For a fabric connoisseur such as myself this is the best season to enjoy Guatemala’s rich woven heritage. Walking around the city I marvel at the seasonal displays often draped in rich and colorful examples of handwoven textiles, typical of Antigua Guatemala. Of course one cannot miss going on a tour of the many churches within the city. As if competing against one-another in a friendly display-setting-match, they drape their baroque interiors in flowing rich fabrics, and dress their holy sculptures in elegant clothes reserved for this time of year.
In the evenings the temperature drops to the low teens giving me an opportunity to sport all my favorite scarves and shawls. I won’t lie, as a business owner I don’t always have time to entertain at home much, but with the amount of tamales I accumulate – and a little bit of seasonal cheer – I make time to invite some people over. Of course it is also my first opportunity to show off the new table runners, placemats, napkins and center-pieces we’ve made in the studio. After all, setting the Christmas table is a terribly important ritual, second only to decorating the tree. For me the most special part of the season is gathering my loved ones around this table and sharing in the season’s bliss. In this regard Christmas in Antigua is like everywhere else: a time to share with loved ones. At the end of the night you sit around a fire with hot chocolate and listen for the “posadas” to come down your street. Posadas are small proscecions organized by families, friends, and neighbors. Playing little drums, and carrying candles, lanterns and religious icons, these proscecions are made to commemorate Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage to Bethlehem. Much like Christmas carolers, they go around the city, filling our chilly nights with Christmas warmth.
So there it is dear reader, a little sample of what Christmas is like in this beautiful little unique city. If you have a chance make sure you come visit us here in Antigua this year.
On behalf of everyone here at Loom Tree, Merry Christmas!