Monday, December 25, 2017

MEXICO | Christmas in Navidad, Mexico

We are staying on the Bahía de Manzanillo.
Yesterday we went up to the Barra de Navidad.
Manzanillo, Mexico, Christmas (Navidad), 2017 – Alice and I celebrated yesterday by driving through the culebra (snake) of a Colima coastline that ends in Barra de Navidad (Christmas Sandbar), in Jalisco.

We played tennis and had lunch at the Grand Isla Navidad. The tennis-court base is a mat covered with loose clay. It works well in the Mexican climate.

Tennis on a mat with loose clay at Grand Isla
Navidad. Photo of us by Juan, the tennis pro.
Christmas in Mexico is a three-week festival. Before Christmas are Los Posadas – the days of The Inns, commemorating the traveling of Mary and Joseph from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for the Census. 

It must have a been a busy time for the innkeepers of Jerusalem, and doubtless they were charging a Census Premium to make sure that the well-off had ample options. It's no wonder Joseph had trouble finding a room in his price range.

(Los Posadas are in addition to the better-known 12 Days after Christmas, ending on January 6, the Epiphany, when the visit of the Wise Men, the Magi, is celebrated.)

In remembrance of the Holy Family, children in these parts go around to different homes. Each is a posada for the evening. The kids are given candles and a board with a painted-clay figure of Mary on a donkey and Joseph walking alongside.

They walk around the streets with this board and call at the houses of neighbors, singing a song about Joseph and Mary asking for a room in the house.

At each house, the children get the message that there is no room, and they must go away. Only at the end of the evening do they eventually reach the posada where they are welcomed. At this home they say prayers of thanks for the birth of the Savior and then they celebrate with food, games and fireworks.

A favorite game is with the piñata, a decorated clay or papier-mâché donkey (or bird) filled with sweets and hung from a tree or ceiling. Sometimes it is in the shape of a ball with spikes representing the seven deadly sins. Children are blind-folded and take turns hitting the piñata with a stick until it splits and the candy spills out. The climax of celebrations is on Christmas Eve, when a manger and sheep and  shepherds are added to the board. When the welcoming posada is reached, a baby Jesus is put into the manger and then families go to Midnight Mass, the Misa de Gallo – Mass of the Rooster.

It's called that maybe to signify that only the roosters are awake by the time they get home.

Or maybe because all four evangelists reported that (1) Jesus predicted that his apostle (St) Peter would deny knowing him before the cock crowed and (2) Peter did exactly that. After the Mass, more fireworks celebrate the start of Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

BIRTHDAY | John F. Karl

John Karl gets ready to blow out the
candle on his cake.
Yesterday I attended the birthday party of a great lawyer and good friend, John F. Karl.

The crowd of well-wishers, many of them from the extended Karl family, assembled in Washington, D.C.

There were several of us from the New York City area and some from as far away as California.

He succeeds.
The birthday cake featured John as a young man destined for success. 

His handsome portrait also appeared on a tee shirt that he spread out proudly over his tuxedo and red bow tie.
John as a handsome youth.

Mrs. Karl, the effervescent  Tyna Coles, cut the cake with energy and dispatch. Everyone had enough, and more, of tasty food and quality beverages.

Tyna cuts the cake.
I met some interesting new people. We talked about the Civil War and related battlefields, the Spy Museum in Washington and George Washington's under- appreciated role as spymaster of the American Revolution, the return of subprime housing paper to the marketplace, the worrisome growth of the value of cryptocurrency and other signs of a bubble, the problems facing Federal Reserve supervisors and policymakers, the Borgia family in Italy and the Mexican Riviera.

The tasty desserts included éclairs. I got to discussing the origin of the word éclair as the name of a pastry.

The 70th birthday tee shirt.
An éclair pastry is of course a hot-dog-roll-sized pastry filled with custard or whipped cream and usually covered on the top with chocolate or coffee icing. 

But why is it named after the French word for a flash of lightning?

The consensus of people with whom I spoke at the party supported my derivation:
"An éclair is French for a 'lightning flash'. A hot-dog-roll size pastry filled with custard or cream is called an éclair because, if left on a table, a lightning flash is its expected half-life."
Alice and I were grateful for being invited to this heart-warming event in honor of a man who has done more effective advocacy for individual workers than anyone else we know.