In the 1960s Venezuela received a contingent of foreigners who came, in search. of a new life in the warmth of the tropics. Some foreigners came with their families and customs, while others formed a new family in the host country.
The atmosphere was very welcoming, the families were warmly received by the native people, although some did not speak Spanish.
Some quickly found employment in the capital, Caracas, while others moved inland to nearby cities such as Maracay. Maracay was still a small town. At that time there were only two urbanizations. One of them, San Gabriel Arcángel, was the seat of different cultures. Both locals and foreigners lived and shared there.
Such is the case of the families Muñoz, from Spain, Michelangeli, from Italy, Goncalves, from Portugal, Scott, from the U.S.A., and the Venezuelan families González, Martínez and Alvarado. Each of these families had their own customs and traditions. All of them had small children, who always played with each other. Time went by and the friendship, which the children had, began to invade the adults. The adult foreigners, now more adapted, also began to follow the example of their children and became interested in their neighbors. Thus, new friendships arose.
They all had vacations in December, specifically for Christmas and New Year's Day. In December 1963 they decided to stay at home. All the families agreed to participate in different gatherings with their children. On the other hand, the wives proposed that they would celebrate the dinners of the 24th and 31st in the evening, all together. Some families would be in charge of the dinner on the 24th and others on the 31st.
To do this, they began to plan what food they would bring. So they decided that they would present, in the menu, some traditional foods from their countries of origin.
Venezuela would bring hallacas, ham bread, chicken salad and dulce de lechosa; Spain paella, seafood stew, chocolate and nougat; Italy meat lasagna, pizza and panettone; Portugal stewed cod, chocolates and bolo rey; U.S.A. stuffed turkey, apple pie and sweets for the little ones. The men would supply the drinks: cream punch, wines and whiskey.
Meanwhile, the children shared their games: sometimes bicycle races, sometimes roller skating; in other cases, Parcheesi, dolls, sparklers and the fashion of that Christmas: the super ball. With the latter, they would throw the ball on the floor and, the ball that reached the highest height when it bounced won.
Katherine Scott was 6 years old, although she appeared to be older because of her size. She made herself understood in her broken Spanish:
-Give me ball, want to play.
Antonio González, 13, told her:
-I'm not giving it to you. You are a danger... you don't know how to play.
The girl continued to insist. Amalia Martínez, Katherine's friend, intervened:
-Lend her the ball.
At that moment Patricia, the Spaniard, came out and said:
-They already told you that you can't....
The two girls start arguing, then Amalia removes an ornament from Patricia's hair. Patricia hits her in the face and the fight starts...... Paco, the Spaniard, intervenes.
Paco is more restrained and talks to the girls. They don't listen to him, they continue fighting. Now Joao, 11 years old, enters the fray. The others don't understand him....interpret what he said as an offense. Joao and Antonio start to hit each other. Marta Michelangeli, 16, arrives:
-Stop, stop, stop. You have to calm down.
Nobody listened. Claudia Martinez, nicknamed "the gossip", ran to her mother.
-Mom, hurry up, there are fights among everyone over the ball. Nobody understands each other.-
In an oversight, the smallest and quietest, Antonio Alvarado, picked up the ball and threw it. With such bad luck that it broke a window of Mrs. Scott's house. When Katherine saw this, she began to cry and ran away...... When Katherine arrived at her house....... Mrs. Scott came out and saw the broken window. All the children hide.....
Mrs. Martinez hurries to explain.... Mrs. Scott tells her in perfect Spanish:
-Don't worry. I observed everything. They are children and I didn't want to interfere. They have to learn how to behave. It is a time to share and show love. My husband is a military attaché at the Embassy, I'm going to tell him to repair the glass quickly... The children will be punished for today, so that they learn their lesson. In 4 days it will be Christmas and we have to make all the preparations.
Mrs. Martinez thanks her and congratulates her for her way of thinking and seeing life. She comments:
-I would have scolded them so that all the neighbors would know about it. Then they would feel ashamed and would not fight again. Next week I'd like to meet with you, to find out what techniques, have worked for you to discourage the children from fighting. I'm not that understanding.
-Okay, we'll meet on Wednesday at 4 pm. Come to my house. We'll have a chat there, Mrs. Scott replied.-
The two ladies said goodbye until the next meeting.
The day was approaching ..... and the mothers decided to go shopping with their children. On December 24, all the children would be wearing new clothes for the first time. The little ones returned happy with their purchases.
The men were painting the houses and arranging the gardens. All the families participated in putting up the Christmas tree or the Nativity of the Baby Jesus, according to their customs. And the children, oh, the children were always inventing something....... This time it was with the skates. They all went out to skate at the same time, minus ..... the youngest ones. They would run intertwined with those who were skating. Another unexpected surprise..... the little ones Katherine and Antonio got tangled up and fell. They were pounding each other...they would start to cry ......when Marta remembered them:
-Don't even think of crying. If you cry we will be punished again and today, December 24, they have a surprise for us. And you, pointing to Claudia, don't even think of talking until next year.-
Everyone surprisingly obeyed as if by magic. Each child, when the competition was over, went home. There they cleaned up and dressed for dinner. While...... the parents were preparing the surprise....
The families decided to close the street for the night. There they set up awnings and tables where they would place the Christmas dinner. In addition, on that occasion they also placed a carousel where everyone could enjoy.
Everyone was already gathered. The men began to toast with whiskey and the children lit the Bengal lights. There was no shortage of unusual mishaps.......Katherine tripped, with the Bengal light on, and burned the gossipy Claudia's dress. The boys were fighting over the only nougat, peanut brittle, on the table.......
A whistle is heard.... It is Mrs. Scott who in a commanding voice says:
-Today we are going to make an exception to traditions. St. Nicholas will deliver the gifts you asked for. Then we will all sit down together and have a quiet dinner. While you listen to this carol .....-
All the adults applaud enthusiastically. They thought it was a great idea to get the children out of the day's strife.
CHRISTMAS ENTANGLEMENTS FOR SPENDING THE VACATIONS AT HOME María del Carmen Sánchez Copyright © 2021