Christmas in Panama

Christmas Display in Chitre PanamaChristmas Display in Chitre Panama

Hot Stuff!

You’ve heard the term “Christmas in July.” Well, that’s what Christmas in Panama Felt like! This newsletter is obviously written by Norma, who definitely felt the effects of the polar opposite Christmas atmosphere in Panama more keenly than Frank.

Traditions

Growing up in the Midwest and living the past 19 years in Ski Country Colorado, where you can pretty much depend on Christmas to bring frosty and snowy weather, I had accustomed myself to a tradition of baking cookies, making candy and preparing a sumptuous feast for Christmas Day, including standing rib roasts, legs of lamb, goose–all of those things that take hours in the oven–plus all the trimmings of potatoes, cooked veggies, homemade bread, etc., etc., etc.

Adjusting

Frank at Christmas Dinner

Frank at Christmas Dinner

When I knew we were going to be spending Christmas, plus the 2 weeks before Christmas, in Panama, I went into a sort of panic mode: what on earth was Christmas in Panama going to look like? In a kitchen that wasn’t mine with kitchenware and utensils that I didn’t choose and never mind outside temperatures in the 80s, baking roasting and candy-making didn’t even come into the question. I felt real sympathy for those contestants on the cooking shows who are given bizarre ingredients, odd utensils and weird logistics for creating something wonderful. Hmmm. Adjustments would need to be made.

Now, I know that plenty of people live in places where Christmas is a warm time of year, not your picture-book Currier and Ives images (like Colorado). But even there, you can run down to your local grocery store or Walmart and buy yourself a Christmas tree and decorations.

Panama Reality

Christmas

Christmas is actually the same everywhere. The blessed celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. No matter where you go in the world, there are Christians celebrating this day by attending church services, singing sacred songs and carols and praying prayers of Thanksgiving.

We have heard that there are actually real Christmas trees available in Panama, but it requires a drive into the City and you have to know when they are arriving in the store from somewhere in North America. We were totally not interested in monitoring Christmas tree deliveries, then driving into the City (a 1 1/2 hour drive, not allowing for slow traffic) to search for an expensive, dried-out evergreen to put in our living room. Living 10 stories up, we certainly didn’t have any trees in the yard to string lights on. So, I set my sights on an artificial tree.

We went early to a lovely town called Penonome, the capital city of the Cocle district. The main shopping street here is lined with all kinds of variety stores as well as stands all along the sidewalks offering miscellaneous wares and goods. At one of these stores, there was a sweet little silver Christmas tree standing out front, about4 feet tall. I thought it was perfect and wanted to take it with me–but we had ridden the bus to Penonome and Frank vetoed the idea. “Wait until we have a car.”

Guess what? When we returned about 4 days later with a car, I looked eagerly for my little silver tree. I know it sounds silly,but that little
tree just lifted my spirits and made me smile! However, the little silver tree was nowhere to be found and there was nothing like it anywhere. I know, because I combed every store looking for one. I finally had to settle for a little green artificial tree that stood about 2 1/2 feet high. I did buy a silver garland to drape around it and a string of tiny little blue lights that twinkled. I was content!

So, I put up my little tree and trimmed it and incessantly played Christmas music from my computer. But looking outside, it just didn’t feel like Christmas to me.

Our Celebration

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Eve we attended a church service at our little church, Coronado Bible Church. Now that was a blessing and brought me back to the realization that Christmas isn’t about the hustle and bustle, the cookies, the tree & trimmings–it is all about the birth of Jesus!
That night, Frank and I enjoyed a Christmas Eve supper of gigantic Langostinos (prawns bought from the local seafood market for $7 per pound), smoked salmon from the local Riba Smith grocery store (they call it the American store because they cater to American tastes), fresh baguette, Brie and champagne. Not too shabby!

On Christmas Day we enjoyed a long walk on the beach before heading to Panama City Tocumen Airport to pick up our son Nik, who came for a visit over the holidays. Now that was our Christmas present!

 

Something Weird This Way Comes!

Coming up to Christmas, as we drove along the PanAmerican Highway, we began to see figures at random intervals alongside the road. When we first saw these folks, we thought they were people waiting for the bus. But no, they were dummies, effigies–whatever you might call something that is the size of a person, looks like a person, is dressed like a person, but isn’t living. What the heck were these?

Judas Dolls along the road

Judas Dolls along the road

Judas Dolls

Yes, they are called Judas Dolls. In a certain area of Panama–you won’t see this much outside of the Cocle and western Panama district–around Christmas, these dolls begin to pop up, mostly standing along the roadside. The reason folks engage in this strange activity is that, as the new year approaches, they seek to “pin” all of their bad habits, addictions, anger at other people (politicians are a popular target) on these Judas Dolls. On New Year’s Eve, at midnight, they then ignite these dolls!

Now, we didn’t get to witness the ignition, but we heard about it. Seems that when people stuff these dolls, they often include fireworks. So when they light them up, they not only burn, they EXPLODE!

I have to say, I kind of like the idea. Some people do pretty elaborate work and are very artistic. Especially when the dolls are supposed to represent politicians, they really do look like those politicians!

This year, we won’t be living in the Cocle district at Christmastime, but maybe, just maybe, we will have a Judas Doll of our own to blow up!

 

MANGOES!

MANGOES!

MANGOES!

We made the sweetest purchase of our lifetime! This is a quiet statement if you know the sweets Norma is producing every year around Christmas time!
We bought a Mango Farm in Panama!
Mango is one of the sweetest fruits in the world. After walking the farm, talking to the sellers, talking to the farmers and tasting the fruit, we decided to consider becoming Mango Farmers! We hadlong discussions together to make sure that we don’t make a decision just based on emotions. We dissected all the material we were able to collect about Mango and aboutMango farming. We worked the financials through and decided that this can become a substantial part of our retirement income in the future.

For more information on investing in Mango Farms in Panama, reply to this newsletter. We will provide you with fascinating details!

 

QUESTIONS:

If you have a question of general interest, please send it to us at fpb@anamericaninpanama.org and we will answer it in one of our future editions.

Frank, will you still take care of my accounts? L.M. Co
Yes, absolutely! While in Panama, I have all data available. Our office in Panama is equipped the same as in Denver. Meetings can be done via internet or phone. Our toll-free phone line (866-966-9185) is fully functioning in Panama and we have a local Denver number to call (303-306-8734) that reaches us in Panama! The other alternative, of course, is a face to face meeting when I am in Colorado or, better still, when you visit Panama!

From Panama with love. Frank and Norma

From Panama with love. Frank and Norma

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