Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | December 17, 2011

A very Bolivian Christmas?

In case you haven’t noticed, Christmas is rapidly approaching. We are going to spend our first Christmas here, after going back to England last year. We are a little bit excited about seeing how Christmas is in Bolivia, but we are also sad not to be with our families and friends.

If there is a Christmassy spectrum with Scrooge (bah humbug) at one end and my sister-in-law Jess (I love everything Christmassy, we put the tree up in November) at the other, we are definitely nearer the love Christmas than not.

But Christmas here is very different. The most obvious thing is the weather. We will definitely not have a white Christmas. It is the height of summer and temperatures can reach 40º plus.

However there are many other differences:

  • I have not eaten or even seen a mince pie. I don’t think they exist here.
  • We haven’t sung any Christmas carols or seen any carol singers
  • I have not heard Noddy Holder sing ‘So here it is merry Christmas’ even once
  • I’m pretty sure that ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ will not be shown on TV
  • There are no Christmas crackers
  • People don’t play Baker family Christmas game specials such as ‘Moses’, ‘The Tray Game’ or ‘Come and sit in my chair’ (don’t ask. Or if you do, ask Roz to explain)
  • No one has heard of mulled wine
  • I don’t think you get Christmas pudding or Christmas cake
  • We will not be throwing snowballs, sledging or making snowmen

So that’s what Christmas is not inBolivia. On the other hand there are some similarities. Families get together and eat lots of food, possibly, but not necessarily turkey. This usually happens after midnight on Christmas Eve- this is when people have their Christmas meal. Most families give presents, but only one or two and mainly to the children. Father Christmas or Papa Noel is here- we have seen him at the supermarket, although I don’t think there are many chimneys for him to come down. Nativity scenes are very popular. We have seen loads. The Abasto market has a build your own nativity stall with a surprising range of animals available. At the moment though, none of them contain the baby Jesus. We wondered if there was a serial baby Jesus thief at large, but it turns out that he only gets put in the manger on Christmas Day. Fireworks are big here- I think there will be a lot of fireworks set off very early Christmas morning, like at New Year. Because of the big Christmas Eve party lots of people don’t go to Church on Christmas Day. For this reason our Church is not meeting and I reckon this will be the first Christmas I don’t go to Church on Christmas Day.

Ho ho... hot

So what will our Christmas be like? I don’t quite know yet, but I think it will be a mix of English and Bolivian. We have a rather straggly real Christmas tree with decorations. I’m not sure if we will search the Internet to listen to the Queen’s speech, but there will be food with friends, maybe some games? We will open presents that have been sent by our generous family and friends fromFrontiersChurchinExeter, we will hopefully Skype our family- although Crazy Uncle John has already taught Chloe the feel and shake Christmas present technique over Skype, so this could be dangerous. We will get Carols from Kings on (my Dad and Ben Sharpe would be proud). I may even try and bake a Liz inspired Christmas Cake. We have ended up with her little Father Christmas decoration to go on the top and it would be a shame to waste it.

Much more important than all this though is that we want to celebrate Jesus- God- being born as a man. The miracle of incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us. I will miss Christmas Carols- they speak of the amazing truth of Christmas that we are trying to explain to Chloe (no, not the Father Christmas truth). That God actually came and lived amongst us. The Creator, the uncreated one, was born as a baby.

If that is the heart of Christmas and being Christmassy, move us along the scale a bit closer to where Jess is…



  1. Ho ho… nice!

    Greetings from the other side of the Atlantic.
    Greetings from Switzerland


  2. Really interesting hearing about the difference between Christmas in Bolivia and England – midnight meal on Christmas eve! Jess is indeed very excited about Christmas! Our church were singing carols in Bournemouth square this afternoon. Will be great to Skype on Christmas day – Evie looks great with her Christmas hat!
    Love Jon and Jess xxx

    • Lets get the Skype on bro! I had wondered about some kind of skype Christmas Day game but I don’t think it will really work. Feel a little jealous of your carol singing! Ben

  3. Fascinating reading this, as I too will spend Christmas away from England – I’m currently in Guadalajara, Mexico, and there’s a lot of similarities between your experiences in Bolivia for Christmas, and mine here in Mexico. Interesting reading! Thanks.

    • Thanks Tom. Hope you enjoy your Christmas away from the UK. I’m trying to work out how much to recreate the kind of Christmas I’m used to, or whether we should embrace the differences. Maybe our approach will change over time. God bless you- Spanish learning, new culture learning and everything. Feliz Navidad!

  4. We wish you all a very Happy Christmas.
    lots of love
    Mum and Dad
    Grandma and Grandad
    Ann and Graham

  5. Happy Christmas to you all! We’re sorry that we won’t see you this time, but I’m sure you’ll have a great Bolivian Christmas. Ben – Fear not, we will try to record ‘It’s a wonderful life’ for you and save you a piece of Christmas cake. I cannot however guarantee that there will be any mulled wine left the next time we see you. It has been great to follow your exciting year through this site and we will continue to pray for you into 2012.
    Lots of love,
    Matt, Beth, Susanna and James x

    • Happy Christmas too! We loved seeing you this time last year, maybe we can see you if we get back to England next year. Christmas cake keeps for a long time, doesn’t it?

      Thanks so much for your love and prayers!

      Have a great Christmas!

  6. Just time to wish you all a very happy Bolivian Christmas before I set my mind to making the bread sauce! Thinking back to last Christmas a lot and miss you all very much, Ben, there are too many chocs still on the tree !! and we have cheated – we cut the Christmas cake TWO days early!! Have a lovely time with your friends and see you on Skype.. Love to you all Mum

  7. We wish you a Merry Christmas
    wish you a Merry Christmas
    wish you a Merry Christmas
    A Very Happy New Year

    Its not snowing but not ho ho hot either! Thinking of you have a great time with your Bolivian Family.
    Lots of love from all the Willmotts

    • Thanks! Chloe has enjoyed lots of the things Naomi sent- Happy Christmas Willmotts!

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