Holiday Traditions in the Heart of Coffee Growing Regions! November 14, 2014

The holidays are approaching, with the hustle and bustle that coincides it’s easy to lose track of what goes on in the rest of the world.   Although there are no specific holiday rituals associated with the coffee communities where we get our beans, there are richly diverse cultures that celebrate the holidays in different ways.  As a fun perspective and to distract you from your impending holiday obligations, here are a few cultural holiday traditions from the countries where we source our coffee.

In Panama, Christmas is a favorite holiday.  There are many month long festivities, turning Christmas into a festival for the community rather than just a family oriented celebration.  Two weeks into December, a Christmas Parade takes over Panama City. The children from lower income families are invited into the middle of the festivities so that they can be embraced by the celebration. The costumes are elaborate, where women wear polleras, beautiful dresses, complimented with hairpieces (or tembleques) and other jewelry.

Other parts of the celebration include Christmas tree lightings on the beach followed later in the evening with boat parades featuring ships ornamented with Christmas lights and decorations. 

Las Posada is held the nine days leading up to Christmas.  Small neighborhoods host parties at their houses to replay the search Mary and Joseph went through to find shelter.  They parade around the neighborhood and at the final house they are welcomed and a party is held there.  On Christmas Eve at midnight, a beautiful fireworks display is set off to announce Christmas.  A nighttime feast commences with dancing and celebrating all throughout the streets of Panama City.

In Guatemala, holidays are celebrated frequently in small villages with fireworks, traditional dance, and El Boj, a potent drink made from sugar cane, also known as White Lightning.  Guatemala has a mixture of different cultural influences, from different regions, ethnic and cultural groups who all celebrate the holidays a little differently.  For instance, the Garifuna people from the eastern coast of Guatemala whose traditions are strongly influenced by Caribbean cultures; celebrate with a Guatemalan Carnival.  These unique carnivals are celebrated from Christmas until New Years and the Garifuna people lead the celebration with their dance and music.

Guatemalans participate in many other Holiday celebrations and they all have the native music, dance and traditional dress in common. While there are many kinds of traditional festivities around Christmas, there is a centralized celebration for New Year's Day.  It is tradition that on the first day of the year, Guatemalan people wear new clothes believing it will bring luck for the upcoming New Year.

Ethiopia celebrates a variety of different holidays; most of them are based on Christian or Muslim traditions.

Christmas is called Ledet, which is celebrated after fasting for 43 days during Advent, or Tsome Gahad.  Christmas is celebrated with a procession that starts at 6 AM and lasts until 9AM.  A Christmas Mass is held, and then the families come together to break the fast of Tsome Gahad. 

In bigger Ethiopian cities holiday celebrations consist of horse races and folk dances.  Often times, people come together to play a hockey like game called Yegena Chewata, played with a ball and stick.   As the legend goes, this game started when the shepherds hearing of the birth of Jesus, jumped about excitedly throwing objects into the air while batting them with sticks. This game is now widely played on Christmas.

These are just a few holiday traditions celebrated in the countries where we get our coffee. There are many diverse traditions, all as rich as our coffee from all around the world.   When setting up your holiday list, visit us online or stop by Red Whale Coffee in San Rafael, to pick up a bag to stuff in a stocking or to serve with friends and family!

Written by: Caitlyn Prien