Here in Ecuador, Christmas has a different feel. At least our here in the country, kids don't get all excited about presents, or go sit on Santa's lap to give him their list. What they do get excited about is fundas de Navidad, Christmas bags, which are basically bags of cookies and candy that kids receive literally everywhere in the week before Christmas: in school, church, neighborhood, etc. Here in Romerillos cars from affluent areas of the city even come to give kids candy and toys. The kids are so used to this by now that they expect it: the Saturday before Christmas I walked outside to go to the store and saw about 15 kids lounging in the park. (This might seem normal but it is not. Usually kids here are helping their parents in the field or in their homes.) When I asked what they were doing, the children casually replied, "We're waiting for cars to come with fundas de Navidad." And their waiting paid off. By the end of the afternoon, they had compiled about seven bags of candy each.
As I watched these children of 9 through 12 years old recite their lines perfectly and act with such feeling, my heart warmed. This is the true meaning of Christmas, I thought. These kids may not hear much talk of Jesus from their parents, but in this moment they are part of something special. They are witnessing the extraordinary moment that we have chosen to remember on December 25: our Lord came to Earth in the form of a humble baby, to live with us and give his life for us. What a beautiful message. This is truly putting the Christ back in Christmas.