And is during this épocas Decembrinas, that I mostly miss what it was of my country when I was growing up. Ese bello y distante recuerdo de mi cultura venezolana, ya olvidada por nuevas generaciones que no entienden de patinatas en las calles sin que te mate un malandro o te atropelle un carro, porque no se para ni porque vea un par de niños jugando en la esquina.

I reminisce about families, getting together to do the Hallacas every December while the head of the household, in my family was my grandma, told the children to stop eating the relleno and the adults to stop drinking alcohol (without any luck btw) at least until dinner time.

I waited for hallacas time every year con ansias, it was the only time of the year that we all seem to get together to accomplish something rather that fighting. Aguinaldos y Gaitas music sounding on the background, while I ate the pasitas and aceitunas that were supposed to go inside the guiso, while listening to my grandma scream to my aunts they needed to trade places with me because the almonds were too expensive this year con la inflación y que me pusieran a amarrar lejos de la comida. Who would have known that all this commotion would be music to my ears nowadays?

So many memories about Christmas in Caracas come back to me now. Who can forget doing the Pesebre, and the smell of the dusty figurines that had been saved in the attic for a year mixed up with the humid smell of musgo, that my grandma had to buy specifically for that, and most likely you can’t find today even if you tried. Priceless and gross all at the same time.

At the time I used to marveled at the baby Jesus, Maria y Jose, plus the Reyes Magos, the Apóstoles, random pastorcitos and all the little animals, that my cousins and I had to take out of the 30 boxes (30 boxes ok?). It took my Grandma probably the whole day to get together this production, and thank God she had our help…for the whole lot of 15 min that we did help her. Now that I think about it, I don’t know how she managed without us that poor woman.

But without a doubt, my favorite day was New Year’s Eve. Not only because of the food, I think we already established that I like to eat, but because the family was together again and the kids stayed up until midnight blowing fuegos artificiales y prendiendo luces de bengala con los tíos. Yes, we did the unthinkable… and with our bare hands lighted up fireworks, while we saw them explode into the sky into beautiful colors time and time again. Que gozadera.

I really don’t know how we Venezuelans survived such happy and hazardous childhood full of events, dust without medicines,and burned fingers from the luces de bengala. All I know is how much I would give this December to hear my grandma tell me, to not eat the relleno one more time.

Merry Christmas,  Happy New Year and to be politically correct Happy Holidays!

Noelle

Receta for the Hallacas

In memory of my Noni.