Traditions are the things that bring families together, that give them a common identity, and that give them a reference point for “the ways things always are.” We get traditions from our culture, our families, and our friends. They make us who we are, and they give us a place to touch base year after year.

One of the strange things about living outside of the U.S. is that our children have a hard time “touching base” with the traditions that were part of our lives growing up. Everything is just different from what we knew as children. We can’t pass down certain things, because they just don’t fit in El Salvador.

Instead, we find ourselves making new traditions, unique traditions. This Christmas we had a lot of fun celebrating Christmas in El Salvador.  Some of the Christmas traditions here include going to parties and visiting friends on Christmas Eve, going to church, setting off fireworks, and eating a big turkey dinner at midnight. We got to do all of those things this year, and we had a blast!  

Some may think that we are losing something by not having white Christmases, and not experiencing the materialistic rush of Christmas in the U.S. but I think that we are gaining something. Celebrating with our friends in El Salvador really added a richness to our holiday this year. Here are some snapshots from the traditions we are establishing.

Tori and Ian dressed up on Christmas Eve and ready for all the festitivites. December 24th is the big night to celebrate in El Salvador!

Our first stop was at the home of our neighbor up the hill from us. All the children at the party participated in “La Posada” which means “Inn” in Spanish. This is a tradition started in Spain, and then brought to the New World. Mary and Joseph symbolically stopped at “inns” until they found a place that had room for them. Then everyone entered at the last stop and we sang traditional Christmas songs, read from the Bible, and had a party!

After La Posada, the sun began to set over the city. We ate some cookies, and there was even a special visit from Santa. Then we were off to church for the Christmas Eve service!

After church, we went to the home of our friend Patty and her family. They made us feel like part of the family and we got to experience a traditional Salvadoran Navidad celebration! Firworks are a big part of Christmas in El Salvador!

Ian loved doing the fireworks too!

At midnight, booms echoed through the city and lights lit up the sky as every family went out in the street to set off fireworks.

Family photo at midnight…Feliz Navidad!

Midnight and it’s time to eat…delicious turkey dinner with all the traditional Salvadoran side dishes!

This is what the kids were doing while we were eating! Ian crashed at around 12:15, Tori took a brief rest then had a snack and stayed up until we went home at 1:45am! As we were leaving, more people were arriving. The party lasts all night on Christmas!

Lighting the final candle of Advent on Christmas morning. I know these colors aren’t the traditional, but they are the candles we had! Each Sunday of Advent we talked about Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace with the kids and then looked for ways to apply those things during our ministries each week. It was one of my favorite parts of Christmas this year!

Of course, we still did “American Christmas” on the morning of the 25th. Thankfully, the kids didn’t get up too early!

Opening presents was fun, and then we skyped with both sides of our family.

We wrapped up Christmas day by eating dinner with some missionaries who are far from home too. It was a great Christmas!

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