Noche de Paz

La Paz Xmas

Noche de paz, noche de amor,

Todo duerme en rededor

entre los astros que esparcen su luz

viene anunciando al niño Jesús

Brilla la estrella de paz

Brilla la estrella de paz.


The bonfire is warm and the salt pines shelter us from the wind. We’re given wine and cheese, chicken mole and freshly pressed corn tortillas. The food is simple, but the starry sky is glorious, and if we strain, we can hear the water lapping at the shore.


It is the first night of our first Christmas trip to Mexico.


Christmas Eve, we join other members of the community where my parents now live. We drink homemade Rompope which is sort of like really lethal eggnog, and also nothing like it. It’s made with rum and stirred with stalks of sugar cane. When we’re buzzed enough, we go caroling through the sandy streets, but the entire group only knows two songs: Jingle Bells – which we sing in English – and Silent Night – which we sing in English and Spanish.


Noche de paz, noche de amor,

Todo duerme alrededor,

Sólo velan en la oscuridad

Los pastores que en el campo están;

Y la estrella de Belén

Y la estrella de Belén.


The years pass and our visits to Mexico change. Instead of drunken caroling we invite some of the post-doc students my stepfather is working with to join our family celebrations. One of them, an Italian woman of roughly my age, brings her guitar.


We spend Christmas Eve decorating cheap felt stockings with puffy paints, while we listen to the Lessons and Carols service from England streaming over the speakers of an ancient HP laptop, too kludgy to be used as anything but a music player.


Our repertoire of carols expands by one: Happy Christmas, War is Over. Our new Italian friend strums her guitar while we all sing along. The next morning, though skeptical, she comes to breakfast in her pajamas and sits on the floor just like the rest of us as we open presents. The youngest of us is in our thirties, but we are happy and the coffee is hot, and we laugh like children.


Noche de paz, noche de amor;

Todo duerme alrededor;

sobre el Santo Niñito Jesús

Una estrella esparce su luz,

Brilla sobre el Rey,

Brilla sobre el Rey.

We miss a few Mexican Christmases, hosting some here in our own home in Texas, and visiting Fuzzy’s family for others. In the years we’re not together Fuzzy and I go to midnight mass at the local Episcopal church, which actually begins at ten-thirty. Some years there is carol singing before the formal service, but even when there isn’t, we pass the flame from hand to hand in the darkened church, and somehow, the simple act of voices raised in song is both mysterious and magical.


We didn’t know our last Christmas in Mexico would be the last Christmas. We are welcomed into my parents’ friends’ homes for a midnight dinner on Christmas eve, and a boozy brunch on Christmas day, and wherever we go, people wish us Felices Fiestas – Happy Holidays.


That last Christmas, I fry latkes, brought to mark my stepfather’s Jewish heritage, and we eat them with smoked salmon and leftover cranberry sauce. The lights twinkle across the bay. The sound of the wind makes us almost believe it’s cold outside, and we finish the evening reading and sipping tea and talking.


Noche de paz, noche de amor

Todo duerme alrededor

Fieles velando allí en Belén

Los pastores, la Madre también

Y la estrella de paz,

y la estrella de paz.


My stepfather left this world in July, and my mother has their house in Mexico listed for sale. She’s due here in a week, and we’ve waited to decorate until she gets here. Mostly, we don’t really feel like Christmas – or I didn’t, but then today in the chocolate shop I saw truffles made with mole and as we walked back to the car with our purchases, I felt like maybe Christmas was coming this year, after all.


Brilla la estrella de paz

Brilla la estrella de paz.





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