Guatemala is a particularly interesting place to look at during Christmas time. Not only is it after Bolivia the country with the second highest percentage of indigenous population, mainly the different Mayan ethnic groups, but also are around 70 percent of Guatemalans members of the Catholic church which arrived together with the Spanish colonizer in the 16th century. With Christmas being one of the most meaningful holidays of the Christian religion, how has the vividly practiced Mayan culture influenced the festivities around it?
As December moves closer, Christmas decorations as also known in Europe and North America start to appear in the streets, houses and markets around the country. But as you look closer there's other elements and rituals who's origin is not so clearly linked to Christmas and it's roots in the Christian church.
emphasized that this phenomena has not occurred peacefully but is the result of the cultural oppression practiced by the invaders.
welcomed in. Typically they're received with a cup of “ponche”, a hot drink made from fresh pineapple and a number of other fruits and spices and tamales.
Most influenced by the native culture are probably the culinary Christmas traditions spread and well established all across Guatemala. Two main culinary components are associated with Christmas by Guatemalans: Hot chocolate and tamales or “paches” as a festive variation of the commonly enjoyed
steamed corn rolls wrapped in different kinds of leaves e.g. corn or banana leaves.
Tamales as the most commonly enjoyed dish during Christmas are represented in similar variations: Some are seasoned with the chipilín herb, some are filled with chicken or pork. There's also a sweet version containing chocolate, almonds, plums and chilis. But all variations of tamales are based on the
same recipe: The typical “maza de maíz” (corn dough) is wrapped in leaves and steamed in a big pot before being enjoyed with sauces, beans or plain. More traditional families vary the kinds of leaves used to wrap the tamales during Christmas time: Instead of corn or banana leaves they use “chocón” leaves
which give them a distinguished flavor and make them even tastier than they are the rest of the year.
The Christmas tradition with the most importance in Mayan history and culture however is surely cacao, enjoyed as hot chocolate or solid, seasoned with vanilla, cardamon, cinnamon or other condiments. The original Mayan name for the now worldwide enjoyed beans is K'akaw' and it was prepared into what has
been known as the sacred drink of the “Ajaw”, the creator of earth and sky. K'akaw' was prepared as a ceremonial drink during specific holidays throughout the year, like the days of certain star constellations that were occasions for ceremonies and celebrations. Those were accompanied and are to day by
offerings consisting of cacao, incense, feathers and the trading of “Chocol'ja”, the origin of the word “chocolate”.
Columbus was the first European to get in touch with cacao and after colonizers initially didn't appreciate it's taste much, they eventually brought the first beans to Spain until 1585 from where it quickly started to conquer all of Europe for it's medical and culinary use.
history and culture and surely to enjoy a lot of tamales and hot chocolate.