In Bolivia, Christmas Eve is the big family day—typically celebrated by a midnight feast and present giving. Because the “tías” and friends of Niños Con Valor have their own families that need them on the holiday, we celebrate with a Christmas Eve lunch instead at Corazón del Pastor. NCV staff and families, friends and volunteers come together to watch a Christmas show put on by the kids, give presents to the kids, and share a typical Bolivian meal.
Christmas—like most holidays in Bolivia—is extremely family-centered. No matter how many gifts we are able to shower on the kids, we cannot give the kids’ their own families to celebrate with. Naturally, Christmastime makes this loss particularly poignant. In order to make the holiday feel extra special, the girls (and their brothers) always have a pajama party in Corazón. Each of the boys who don’t have sisters living in the girls’ home spend Christmas with a tía’s family. This was my first Christmas apart from my family so I was so thankful to spend the night merry-making with my “Bolivian sisters”. We pulled mattresses and blankets downstairs to fill the dining room. Guilt-free, we watched movies, ate ice cream, and giggled all night long.
On less than a few hours of sleep, we rose at 6am to prepare breakfast (the typical Christmas bread, Panetón, and hot cocoa), clean up the diving room, wash clothes, and mop. Not a single girl complained. Sleepy-eyed the older girls spent the rest of the morning chatting and painting nails while the younger ones couldn’t get enough of their new dolls and plastic kitchen set. Sofia has been studying cosmetology in technical school, and painted my nails beautifully!