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Have Yourself a Handmade Little Christmas

Hello dear friends of Loom Tree! It's that time of year again when we all get a little festive, or, to paraphrase the poet Clement Clark Moore, it's the time of year in which "visions of sugar-plums dance in our heads." When we think of Christmas many imagine snow-covered roofs, the warm glow of yuletide logs in fireplaces, and the smell of freshly-cut pines. As an Italian I was raised with a version of Christmas that fits very well within the traditional vision of the holiday. So when I first spent it here in the tropics it took some getting used to. Especially after giving birth to my son, who grew up watching North American Christmas movies, we tried every year to match that version of Christmas. In fact, it took me longer than perhaps I'd like to admit to realize that Guatemala actually has its own take on Christmas that can be just as vibrant, just as fun, and just as capable of getting you into the spirit of the holiday!

Every year here in our shop we try to pay homage to Guatemalan Christmas by incorporating handmade decorations procured locally from Guatemala's Christmas markets. While it is sadly true that many of these Christmas markets have been invaded by the cheap "made-in-China" decor that regularly floods the global south in this time of year, if one looks closely you can still find an amazing selection of artisanal decorations. One year for example we filled Loom Tree's garden with an entire flock of sheep made from dried corn leaves. These handmade animal figures are commonly found in the Tecpán and Sololá departments, and I absolutely fell in love with them. Especially the one black sheep (made from darker corn leaves) that I always include in the flock; I do think of myself as being a bit of a black sheep after all!

On different occasions we make use of what we call "manzanilla," which in English translates directly as "little apple." For context I believe it is a type of hawthorn fruit, and it is also known as "tejocote" here in Central America. Our manzanilla is delicious, and many of my weavers have gifted me marvelous homemade manzanilla jams. Once I had an entire curtain made for our patio of these fruits, all strung together and draped from the ceiling. As the air moved through this curtain it filled our shop with the sweet smell that manzanilla is known for. While many might still consider the smell of pine-needles to be quintessentially the Christmas smell, I have been here long enough to actually think of manzanilla as more emblematic of the season!

Finally, a personal favorite of mine are my "forests" of handmade pine-trees I use to decorate our tables. These trees are a very common sight, not just here but in many many places. Indeed, even in my homeland of Italy we regularly use them in the creation of nativity scenes. That tradition is also true here, but in my case I only buy the trees, and I buy lots of them! I like to call them my little forests as I use them to cover my tables, usually paired with our forest-green, red, and white textiles.

There are many more wonderful examples of traditional Guatemalan Christmas decorations I could list; from the sculptural candles made here in Antigua, to the poinsettia arrangements we cover the city in. But for now I will leave it at this. Thank you dear friends for another wonderful year! From all of us here at Loom Tree, I wish you all a very very merry Christmas and a happy new year!




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