Christmas Grace

Jacob Stern - Ecuador


January 18, 2012

“Let’s thank Jesus for coming into our house this Christmas. We’ve never been able to have Turkey before…”

My mom chokes up. I feel the whole family’s eyes are all on me. Just smile and don’t look anywhere but at her.

“And we also want to thank Jake, for coming to this poor house. Thank you so much for allowing us to share this beautiful meal. We got you a present…”

She passes me something gift-wrapped. And here come the waterworks.

“…Muchas gracias por todo.”

We hug. They’re very traditional, so hugs aren’t cheap—I’ll take what I can get. I had no idea this was going to be this emotional. Do they think I’m a present from Jesus? I should probably say something…

But my Español decides to stop working. Classic. Awkward pause, and then we dug in.

It was delicious—they put champagne in little fancy pants sundae glasses, and we ate fist-sized potatoes. There was even Turkey sauce! We were so into the food, no one spoke until half our plates were empty. I’m salivating right now as I reminisce.

I bought the Turkey with my Hanukah money. For two reasons: first—it’s tasty, and second—it’s a status symbol in Ecuador. Not all families canafford a special meal, it’s just the standard: chicken and rice. Their month had also been really rough financially. So I got my siblings Monopoly, the ultimate collections of Kung-fu and Die Hard, and chocolate.

Many Ecuadorians have told me that Christmas is a sad holiday. They say it’s because of money. The rich have trees, while the poor have bushes. Holiday bonuses are spent on the essentials, no presents. And family members sometimes miss Christmas for work.

But compared to the Turkey, my best part of Christmas was being with the family. After we stuffed ourselves, we finished the champagne bottle, and then saw fireworks in the city park. There was laughter and my siblings annoyed each other. It was bittersweet, but normal. And as usual, we made it happy.

Jacob Stern