Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Eve Before Christmas Eve

Fresh rose petals on the side of the road 
Written by Karen.
The evening sky is turning pink, complimenting the dark gray and white clouds above and casting a pinkish-red glow over the city.  The colors of the buildings seem to warm and provide a contrast with their blue, orange, yellow and white facades.  Although the skies have been overcast for most of the day, it is still warm outside.  The air is almost soft as it settles in for the night and the first lights of the evening sputter on.  

We have just finished walking along the Rio Tomebamba, the river that runs alongside Cuenca and eventually becomes one of the tributaries to the Amazon river.  The lights along the river are starting to flicker on and the sounds of water over rocks soothes over the honking of car horns stuck in traffic. 

We are joined by families and couples strolling throughout the streets of the City.  It is the day before Christmas Eve and shopping opportunities still abound.  Posted discounts of 15%, 25% and 30% are seen everywhere on the sides of the small shops, but mostly we observe people window shopping and licking their ice cream cones.  

Our street has been turned into a virtual sidewalk sale with sweaters, knitted caps, barking plastic pet dogs, and decorative bags to put presents into spread along the tiled sidewalk.  As we dodge and meander our way back to our apartment, we notice the increased availability for snacks being set up. The mobile cotton candy guy is here with his gasoline-powered compressor chugging away creating mountains of pink cotton candy; the crema stand is here with three different flavors of whipped cream to dollop onto an ice cream cone; the salchipapas stand is also here making the very delicious snack of freshly made french fries and a few pieces of fried hot dog, with cabbage, mayonnaise and ketchup piled on top; as well as freshly fried plantain chips, bags of popcorn, and what looks like red candied apples are also available and growing in number.  

We feel a sense of anticipation around us, and not a sense of desperation as darkness settles in and the end of Christmas shopping fast approaches.  We see several parades throughout the day, complete with the tossing of fresh rose petals on the ground in anticipation of the baby Christ.  The army rides up in their trucks and the army band jumps out and sets up in front of the Old Cathedral.  Traffic is diverted again to allow room for another parade to make its way around the main square.  More rose petals.  

Tomorrow is the big Christmas parade.  We've heard much about the big celebration that is supposed to start tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. and end at midnight or later.  We have heard that there will be thousands (one article  that we read expected 15,000 participants and 150,000 people watching!) of people participating in this huge parade with floats, street performers, and biblical characters to welcome the baby Christ. We will have a front row seat as our apartment is on the 8th floor a block away from the main square.  

We expect that most of the restaurants and stores will be closed tomorrow for the big celebration so we went for rations this afternoon.  Saltine crackers, soup, tuna, wine and tres leches cake.  I think we will be okay!  

As I write this blog, we can hear another parade start to make its way around and around the main square.  The music, drums, horns, laughing and singing waft into our apartment with pre-football game intensity in anticipation for the big day tomorrow.  

The army band playing in the main square and in front of the New Cathedral.  They played while the baby Christ sculpture, Niño Viajero, or Traveling Child arrived into Cuenca.  The sculpture which was created in 1823, was later brought into the New Cathedral with an armed escort. 
The New Cathedral, built in the 1850's is absolutely huge.  When you step through the main doors, the front of the church is further than a football field away and the height of the church is a couple of hundred feet tall.  
The New Cathedral as it looks this evening.
There was a large and very enthusiastic crowd that followed this sculpture of baby Christ into the New Cathedral at the conclusion of the parade around the main square.  This sculpture will be the main attraction in the parade tomorrow.  
Military escort
A six-inch square Tres Leches cake.  This cake is made from evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream and it tastes like a moist creme brulee.  Very tasty!
Some street vendors setting up in front of the New Cathedral.  In the foreground, you can see a female vendor carrying crema with ice cream cones and freshly fried plantains on her head.  The vendor cart in the distance is selling popcorn-related snacks.  There is another vendor off to the right who is also selling snacks.  These snack vendors are on every street in the historical downtown district making it very easy - and tempting - to get a snack!
A very wide load
Vendors (including kids) selling last minute Christmas items on our street


Anonymous said...

Que el Niño Jesús nos bendiga a todos en esta temporada de alegría.

Observers of Life said...

Feliz Navidad!