Guatemala’s Season of Aromas

SENSUOUS GUATEMALA by Ken Veronda.

The spice and smoke aromas, the sweet and pungent, hot cocoas and burned punk, fruit punches and sugary eggnogs, odors that harmonize with all we’re seeing, hearing, tasting, touching.

Guatemala photo

“Los Buñuelos de la Navidad” by Javier Alvarez Vassaux. 1st PLACE by judges vote in the Revue Photo Contest: Traditions

Cedar and chocolate, cinnamon and corn, breathe deep and enjoy this holiday time of rich aromas in the air. The pungent pine needles on market floors, the chimineas providing light smoke on chilly nights, the cups of chocolate ready to welcome visitors and especially seekers of shelter for the holy family during the nine nights of traditional posada travelers going door to door.

These and other familiar odors serve as backdrops for all the other sensual holiday experiences, the sights of the nacimientos (nativity scenes) in homes and churches, the sounds of carols and bells, the taste of tamales stuffed with fruits or meats, the touch of abrazos (hugs) as families gather from afar.

The spice and smoke aromas, the sweet and pungent, hot cocoas and burned punk, fruit punches and sugary eggnogs, odors that harmonize with all we’re seeing, hearing, tasting, touching through December’s holidays.

More than 20 different ethnic groups scatter across Guatemala, each with some special holiday traditions. The Spanish brought Christian ceremonies to blend in with the ancient incense and pine odors of the year-ending rituals as the days grew short and nights dark and long. Then German farmers came with more traditions of the holiday, bringing Christmas trees into homes to permeate the holiday air with their special smell. Chocolate and coffee became important products, adding more rich aromas to the season.

Then comes Christmas Eve, families and friends gathering as midnight approaches and towns celebrate the holy birth with a barrage of firecrackers and fireworks lighting the skies and assaulting the ears. The smells of burned fireworks becomes a backdrop to family prayers after midnight, then to children opening presents appearing under the tree from the Christ child.

Enjoy every aspect of this sensuous time, and be sure to note the many distinctive and delightful aromas of December in Guatemala.

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